The Melbourne Wholesale Markets are located at 542 Footscray Road, West Melbourne. They have been at this site since October 1969, having formerly been located at the Queen Victoria Market site and prior to this at the Eastern Market and at the Western Market.
Melbourne Wholesale Markets now comprise the Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market, the National Flower Centre and an extensive range of associated businesses. 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. 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 a complement of staff who manage the site on a daily basis.
Melbourne’s first official fruit and vegetable market was the Western Market – established in December 1841, a mere six years after the Port Phillip settlement – on a site bounded by Market, Collins and William Streets, and Flinders Lane (in recent times occupied by the AXA Centre). The Western Market traded for 90 years. It started as a general market but gradually grew into a wholesale cased market. As the city developed, the Eastern Market at Bourke and Exhibition Streets – now being redeveloped as the Southern Cross Centre – 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 largely absorbed into the Queen Victoria Market which became the hub for Victoria’s wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable industry. By the 1960’s due to the growth in the industry and changes in transport and refrigeration requirements, the Queen Victoria site could no longer accommodate both wholesale and retail functions and a 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 Queen Victoria Market continued to develop as a retail market and over the years has become one of Melbourne’s famous retail icons.
The new purpose built wholesale facilities at the Footscray Road, Melbourne Markets site were 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(NFC) was constructed on the site. Up until then flowers had been traded casually in the fruit and vegetable market 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. Over recent years additional warehousing, coolrooms and other wholesale facilities have been added to the site to accommodate the changing needs of the fresh produce industry.
The Victorian Government has announced that the Melbourne Markets will relocate to a new site at Epping in Melbourne’s north by the end of 2014 / 2015. For more details and an update on this major project, click here.