A person harvesting lettuce

Call on supermarkets to lower the price of fresh fruits and vegetables as families struggle

Small-scale grocers are calling for an immediate cut in the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets as costs continue to rise.

Monique Lunn runs a fresh produce store at her family’s mushroom farm in Ballarat, Victoria, and said they run at a loss to make sure people aren’t priced to feed their families wholesome food.

†[Supply] is really hard but i’m lucky and i buy local first if i can.

“Unfortunately in Victoria in the winter we have to source from Queensland, which has been hit by flooding, because we just 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 a short-term ethical measure until supply caught up with demand.

“But now the lettuce has gone up again, so I found that many of my customers have switched to buying romaine lettuce.

“Kossla is a slightly cheaper option for people if they feel the iceberg is getting too expensive and we’re selling double packs of coleslaw for $4.”

Because lettuce is currently cheaper than iceberg lettuce.ABC News: Brian Hurst

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

Ms Lunn said if supermarkets were not willing to make similar sacrifices to their fresh produce profit margins, the federal government would have to step in, similar to how energy prices were capped this month.

“I think there could be some kind of capping, especially in times like this,” she said.

“Right now, the price of vegetables is really out of reach.”

Two women with a box of mushrooms at their farm
Ballarat Mushroom Farm converted into a fresh food store when farmers markets in Victoria were banned amid COVID restrictions.ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton

Go organic

Wayne Shields of Peninsula Fresh Organics sells its lettuce privately and through major supermarkets and has kept prices stable during the lettuce shortage.

“We’re crushed and it’s good in a way, but we’re trying to read the piece and understand the direction the organic industry is going,” he said.

“The conventional side has been hit by floods in Queensland and East Gippsland [and] labor shortages and farmers get tired of selling stuff 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 of conventional iceberg lettuce skyrocket.Provided: Natasha Shields

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

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