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Aussie fruit and veggie prices to rise: How it affects you

Seal Media Group, Australia

Consumers have been warned to expect a reduction in the amount of produce for sale — and possibly higher prices — as lockdowns and agriculture labour shortages hit growers hard.“Without adequate labour, producers will be forced to destroy produce, leading to loss of income and potentially less produce available on shelves,” said CEO and founder of Thankful4Farmers Kim McDonnell.Australia’s peak industry body for vegetable growers, AusVeg, estimated a shortage of 24,000 harvest workers by the new year.The shortage could lead to a 17 per cent drop in fruit production and a two per cent fall in vegetable production. “The vegetable industry, particularly producers of perishable products and those that supply the food service sector, will be more heavily impacted by the extended lockdowns in NSW and Victoria the longer they last,” AusVeg spokesman Shaun Lindhe said.“There will undoubtedly be some perishable food that will go to waste as a result of these lockdowns and the disruption to the food service sector.“As availability of fresh produce is impacted by lower production, whether by labour shortages or other events, the market will reflect this and prices will increase for impacted commodities for consumers.”Prices for fruit — namely mangoes, peaches, apples, pears, cherries and table grapes — are forecast to rise by around four per cent by Christmas, according to Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. The price of vegetables should not jump as much, with market research firm IBISWorld predicting an increase of 0.3 per cent. It would bring to an end a record price run for shoppers, who had been enjoying cheap prices as a result of the oversupply.fruit veg “When so many Aussie families are already doing it tough because of ongoing lockdowns this could further widen the gap between those that can and those that can’t afford fresh produce,” Ms McDonnell said.Tropical Pines grower Ken Fullerton, from Elimbah in Queensland, said the lockdowns had been crippling for his pineapple farm.“When it comes time to harvest and you don’t have enough fresh fruit buyers or workers available then you end up having to sell the fruit either to juice or as overripe,” he said.“This only gets you around $150 a tonne as opposed to $600 or $700 a tonne when you sell it fresh. “There are no restaurants open, no cafes and no tourists and then the demand and the price goes down.”Vegetable grower Catherine Velisha from Victoria, who supplies products including kale, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes, is urging Aussies to “support growers through your consumption”.“What has been the most testing aspect for us to maintain supply is the strain on the amounts of harvesters available on any one day,” she said. “An example is that our ability to harvest something like spring onions has been down about 30 per cent on efficiency due to the various impacts on labour.”NSW Farmers Association director Chris Stillard said exporting the excess food was not feasible because international customers were also struggling.The fifth-generation farmer from the Murray River has seen a 30 per cent decrease in apple and stone fruit sales.Sarah Asciutto from Rio Vista Olives in South Australia said the hospitality sector, which has been decimated by lockdowns, comprised more than 50 per cent of her market.“We certainly had to increase our presence in supermarkets,” she said.“The problem for our industry is with supermarkets there are so many products and supermarkets constantly want to discount local product because of the inferior imported oils that are on the shelf.”

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