Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are more than vintage furniture and ceramics – there are also lettuce and other fresh produce.
As Australians watch helplessly, the prices of once-affordable staples are rising.
Consumers have seen lettuce sold in stores for over $10†
With no end in sight to the price hikes for fruits and vegetables, some shoppers are looking for an unconventional source to get fresh produce on the table: social media.
For some, buying online cheaper than supermarkets
Jason, 44, is from Brisbane and started selling fresh produce online in early 2021.
“While growing my own vegetables at home, I decided to sell some of the extras online to help others out a bit,” he said.
“Once you find a decent seller on social media, it’s easy to stick with them and go back for more.”
Among those who have recently started selling fresh produce online are entrepreneurs who have been selling produce there for years.
Rising prices just the tip of the ‘iceberg’
Jeremy, 41, from Brisbane, runs a business called Jezs Seedlings, which he advertises online.
Although he has always been a gardener, Jeremy lost his job in early 2020 when the pandemic hit, allowing him to turn his hobby into a full-time job.
Over the past two years, Jeremy’s business has grown, as has his customers’ reluctance to buy fresh produce from major supermarkets.
“The prices are insane. They think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
“The customers I’ve dealt with will either run out of fresh produce or come up to me and buy a whole bunch of seedlings.”
Jeremy said other sellers on social media had no direct influence on his business and that there was “enough room for everyone”.
However, he said they would usually only be there temporarily.
“The people selling these vegetables on social media will come and go,” he said.
“You might buy something from a new seller on Marktplaats, but what happens when that person’s piece of lettuce runs out?
“They won’t have anything for months because they don’t have the right resources to produce year-round.”
Are we looking at a black lettuce market?
Two people are standing at the end of a dark alley. One of them slides a $10 bill on the other. The other person slowly reveals a plastic bag from under his hoodie. There’s a lettuce in it.
This is not what buying vegetables via social media looks like, in case you were wondering.
Buying and selling products from platforms like Marketplace and Gumtree may be unconventional to some, but it’s no different than buying a stranger’s old couch or their dining room table.
Rebecca Lindberg – of Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition – said it was something we should have expected.
“When fixed costs such as gasoline, home loan repayments and utilities increase, we know that the food budget is elastic and is therefore the area where people are trying to cut corners,” said Dr. Lindberg.
“This means looking at other, informal outlets.
dr. Lindberg said the affordability of healthy food affected not only what people could buy each week, but also how they could buy it.
“In times of financial and personal crisis, many people save their meals by using cheap pasta and rice, charitable giving or even skipping meals so that children or others can eat first.”
Her research shows that only 7 percent of adults and 5 percent of children eat enough vegetables.
“These healthy foods are so important to prevent the biggest causes of premature death in Australia and should, where possible, remain affordable to consumers and purchased at a fair price from the farmer,” said Dr. Lindberg.
“Governments have an important role to play here.”
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