Small grocers are calling for an immediate price cap on fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets as the cost continues to soar.
- Small food retailers say they are absorbing price increases for fresh produce
- Major retailers warn it will be weeks before fruit and veg prices fall
- Consumers are encouraged to buy local to save money
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.”
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.”
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. »
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.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture said that due to the perishable nature of fruits and vegetables, prices were sensitive to supply-side shocks such as floods.
“In normal times, fruit and vegetable prices tend to recover relatively quickly,” the spokesperson said.
“However, there are a range of inflationary pressures in the fruit and vegetable supply chain, including rising fertilizer and fuel costs and continued labor shortages in a tight labor market.
“ABARES [Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences] predicts that in 2022-2023, farm gate prices [the prices that farmers receive] cereals, oilseeds and pulses will increase by about 10%, fruit and vegetable prices by 5%”.
The department did not respond to questions from the ABC about potential price caps on supermarket profits on fresh produce, and a Woolworths spokesperson said there were no plans to include the fresh produce in the firm’s price freeze.
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