A person harvesting lettuce

Call on supermarkets to cap the price of fresh fruit and vegetables as families struggle

Small grocers are calling for an immediate price cap on fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets as the cost continues to soar.

Monique Lunn runs a fresh produce store at her family’s mushroom farm in Ballarat, Victoria, and said they were running at a loss to ensure people weren’t deprived of prices to feed their families healthy food .

“[Supply] is really hard, but I’m lucky and will buy local first if I can.

“Unfortunately in Victoria during the winter we have to source produce from Queensland, which has been hit by floods, as we simply don’t have the temperature to produce the volume for our population.”

short term sacrifice

Ms Lunn said selling high-demand products at cost was an ethical short-term measure until supply caught up with demand.

“But now lettuce has gone up again, so what I’ve found is that a lot of my customers have switched to buying cos lettuce.

“Cos lettuce is a slightly cheaper option for people if they find the iceberg is getting too expensive and we sell twin packs of cos lettuce for $4.”

Cos lettuce is currently less expensive than the iceberg variety.(ABC News: Brian Hurst)

Woolworths this week announced a price freeze on certain “essential items”, such as pasta, bacon and frozen peas.

Ms Lunn said that if supermarkets were unwilling to make similar sacrifices on their profit margins for fresh produce, the federal government would have to step in, in the same way as energy prices were capped this month.

“I think there might be a kind of plateau, especially at times like this,” she said.

“Right now, the price of vegetables is well and truly out of reach.”

Two women holding a box of mushrooms at their farm
Ballarat Mushroom Farm converted into a fresh produce store when farmers’ markets were banned in Victoria during COVID restrictions.(Rural ABC: Jane McNaughton)

Go organic

Wayne Shields of Peninsula Fresh Organics sells his lettuce privately and in large supermarkets, and has kept prices stable throughout the lettuce shortage.

“We’ve been crushed and that’s fine in a way, but we’re trying to read the play and understand where the organic industry is going,” he said.

“The conventional side has been hit by flooding in Queensland and East Gippsland [and] labor shortages and farmers are tired of selling produce below the cost of production. »

A man in a vegetable sorting shed
Farmer Wayne Shields says supermarket shoppers are flocking to organic lettuce as prices for conventional iceberg lettuce soar.(Provided: Natasha Shields)

In the March quarter of this year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a sharp increase in fruit and vegetable prices of 5.8% and a 4.8% increase in meat and seafood prices. sea.

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