Terrible weeks ahead as Woolworths predicts further shortages

Shoppers have been warned of serious vegetable supply problems, with Woolworths revealing it does not expect improvements for several weeks.

Woolworths has warned of dire weeks ahead as extreme shortages of fresh produce continue to cause shopping chaos.

The retailer gave a bleak outlook for the month ahead in its latest fresh market supply update, revealing that customers might need to get used to seeing particularly bare shelves.

Buyers have been told that the supply of fresh herbs has been so affected that they are unlikely to be available in usual quantities until August.

“You may notice gaps in our supply of fresh herbs due to poor weather conditions. We expect availability to improve from August,” the update read.

Consumers weren’t just facing an herbless July, with a host of other fresh produce unavailable until the end of next month.

Tough growing conditions have disrupted zucchini supplies, meaning the vegetable is unlikely to reappear on shelves until late July.

“Availability should improve in four weeks as weather begins to warm in growing regions,” the zucchini update read.

Green beans, baby spinach and salad bowls were other items the retailer warned would be difficult to restock properly until the end of next month.

Previous weather impacts were the main cause of the bean shortage, while heavy rains hampered regions responsible for growing ingredients for baby spinach and salad bowls.

“Heavy rain in growing regions means you may not be able to purchase our full range of baby spinach and salad bowls. We expect supply to improve over the next four weeks,” says the update.

Woolworths’ entire range of tomatoes had been affected and availability is not expected to improve until mid-July.

The same was true for Asian leafy vegetables due to poor weather conditions, and for grapes due to the end of the summer growing season.

Well-documented lettuce supply issues were expected to improve in July as the supermarket continued to work with growers to recover from the impact of heavy rains in growing regions.

Heavy rains have also disrupted broccoli and broccolini supplies, which are expected to start improving from July.

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries were still experiencing “challenges”, the retailer said, with availability expected to increase in early July as growing conditions improve.

Toll of Protracted Supply Problems

Prolonged supply problems have pushed prices to extreme levels that owners of small production businesses have never experienced before.

Dominic Marino, owner of Melbourne production company Marino Bros, said New the pressure felt by her business was even worse than what she endured during the pandemic.

“What is sad now is that we are experiencing more pain in the last six months than in the last two years during Covid-19,” he said.

“Being in this game for 30 years, I’ve never felt the pain of trying to buy vegetables like this.”

Another Melbourne production company, The Flying Zucchinis, shared a similar experience, with boxes of the product costing 25% more now than this time last year.

A box of broccoli that would have cost $16 now costs the company $60.

“My business partner and I spend twice as much time planning our boxes each week, just so they collapse at 4 a.m. when we hit the markets and realize that prices have risen again during of the six hours we were asleep,” business partner Caity Meyer told the publication.

“This is not a sustainable position for a small business. We expect prices to stabilize soon, but we will carefully review our operations if this is not the case.”

No respite for preserves

The disaster has also spread to the supply of canned goods, with SPC boss Robert Giles pleading with the government for financial support.

Supply costs – distinct from energy prices, which the company has locked in until next year – had put immense pressure on the business, Mr Giles told the Australian Financial Review.

Can supplier Visy had hiked prices by 14% after Mr Giles warned in March that staples including SPC Ardmona tinned tomatoes, baked beans, spaghetti and Goulburn Valley fruit , would increase by 10 to 20%.

“We have just completed a significant price increase for our tomato season next year based on fertilizer, diesel and labour,” he told the publication.

“The ripple effects are felt everywhere. We will have to pass on packaging increases, next season we will have to pass on fruit increases and a year later we will probably have to pass on energy price increases.

Mr Giles called on the government to provide emergency aid to avoid reaching a ‘breaking point’ where consumers could no longer afford basic groceries.

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