They say a week is a long time in politics, but I reckon a day is a long time in retail. And this week, regrettably, these two fields crossed over.
Let me say right up front - the allegations made this week in Parliament by Shane Jones are untrue.
I am proud of the way Countdown conducts business. I am proud of my team - all 18,000 of them - for the work they do to provide groceries to Kiwis at the best possible prices.
The price of food is really important to our customers, no matter who they are or where they live. We work hard every day to offer savings right across the shop floor and a big part of our strategy going forward is to deliver even lower prices to our customers.
Better value for money; less pressure on family budgets.
To deliver Countdown customers with quality food and groceries at low prices, we negotiate with our suppliers, like any business does. These negotiations are at times robust, but they are always fair.
And I don't apologise for that.
But we also know that without our suppliers, the fridges and shelves in Countdown supermarkets would be empty. To be successful, Countdown depends on its 1200 suppliers throughout the country.
Ninety-four per cent of our sales come from products sourced from New Zealand-based suppliers.
100 per cent of our fresh chicken, lamb and pork; 98 per cent of our fresh beef; and 99 per cent of our fresh seafood are supplied by local producers. Seventy per cent of our private label business is sourced from NZ, and the vast majority of what isn't is because we don't make or grow enough of it here.
We preference New Zealand suppliers where we can because it makes good business sense. It also helps us keep prices down and efficiency up, and it means we give our customers what they want to buy.
Kiwis like to buy local products, because of the high quality of our nation's produce. And while we may not like it as patriotic Kiwis, the fact is the case is the same in Australia.
I raise this because there has been considerable media attention given to Australian supermarkets choosing to source from Australian suppliers.
Despite what has been written in the media, there has been no change in Woolworths supermarkets' policy in Australia towards sourcing goods from New Zealand. There are lots of Kiwi products on their shelves - $54 million worth last year on brands like Mainland Cheese, Sealord fish, Whittakers chocolate, and fresh produce, like kiwifruit and fresh avocados.
And here in New Zealand, I can assure our suppliers that we remain committed to working with them, and I ask anyone who has specific concerns about our conduct with suppliers to bring these to me directly.
I started on the shop floor here more than 25 years ago. I am immensely proud of the business we run, of creating competition and of investing in the economy. Most importantly, I am proud to be one of the largest employers in the country - giving jobs to a very dedicated team of New Zealanders the length and breadth of the country.
I also make this promise to our customers - we will continue to provide you with the highest quality products, at the best possible prices. We will never stop working to do this.