Market History

The Melbourne wholesale produce history dates back to just six years after the Port Phillip settlement.

From 1842 to 1978, the City of Melbourne controlled and managed all the markets. In 1978 the Wholesale Market passed into the control of a Market Trust and then in 1993 the Melbourne Market Authority was established to take over from the Trust and to manage the Footscray Road site. The Melbourne Market Authority comprises a five member Board appointed by the Governor-in-Council under the provisions of the Melbourne Market Authority Act 1977. The Board is supported by staff who manage the site on a daily basis. Today, the Melbourne Wholesale Produce Market is the only central wholesale market in Australia to still be owned and managed by the government.

Melbourne’s first official fruit and vegetable market was the Western Market – established in December 1841, a mere six years after settlement – on a site bounded by Market, Collins and William Streets, and Flinders Lane. The Western Market traded for 90 years. It started as a general market but gradually grew into a wholesale market. As the city developed, the Eastern Market at Bourke and Exhibition Streets opened as a general market in 1847, gradually attracting market gardeners and fruit merchants. Extra facilities were built and 224 stands were let to market gardeners, fruit agents and dealers. In the early 1860s it was estimated that more than 1000 growers used the market at one time during the year. Eventually both Eastern and Western Markets businesses were merged into the Queen Victoria Market which became the hub for Victoria’s wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable industry.

By the 1960’s the Queen Victoria site could no longer accommodate both wholesale and retail functions and the controversial decision was made to move wholesale trading to the current site (previously a swamp area) and build a new market to meet the needs of the industry.

The purpose built wholesale facilities at the Footscray Road site was officially opened by then Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte on October 30, 1969. Trading started in December that year. At the time there was significant controversy over the move to Footscray Road, with many believing the market would fail because it was too far away and could not operate without its retail function. In time this controversy abated as traders learned to appreciate the new space and improved conditions. In April 1996 the National Flower Centre was constructed on the site. Up until then flowers had been traded casually on the market floor on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings. The development of the NFC enabled flower growers to have permanent stands with coolrooms, for flowers to be traded more frequently and for improved conditions that were more conducive to maintaining flowers in top condition.

20150424_FreshState_Boardroom_0041                                                                                     Aerial View of the Footscray Wholesale Market site  

After 46 years operation at Footscray, the Melbourne Wholesale Markets recently relocated to a new purpose built facility in Epping, after a long eleven years in the planning. Once again, the move has been plagued by controversy, with many traders and retailers unhappy about the new facilities, the location and the government landlord’s handling of the site. Time will tell if traders learn to adapt as has occurred in the past.

 MMA_FirstDays_Epping_27 resized                                                                                         The Trading Floor at Epping Wholesale Market