Australian fruit and vegetable prices set to soar

Lois Nicholls


“How much did you pay for the capsicum?”

Small talk in the supermarket queue is not too common in this particular upmarket Brisbane enclave but the flood has changed all that. The woman behind me says she has just paid $9.99 a kilogram for hers at a vegetable shop nearby. I say mine was a comparative steal at $6.95 a kilogram.

Later, I pay $10 for five bananas and three oranges at a vegetable shop stocked with a consignment of fruit and vegetables from Sydney. “You pay for quality,” the teller assures me when I express horror at the prices.

There is worse to come. There are predictions that bananas will reach $15 a kilogram – similar to prices paid after Cyclone Larry devastated banana crops in 2006. There is no evidence of such extremes just yet but the niggling thought that a simple banana will be elevated to grand status is enough to encourage turning one’s garden into an orchard.

Prime fruit and vegetable producers supplying SE Queensland were hard hit. In fact, Queensland supplies one third of the country’s fruit and vegetables so the nation will feel the pinch.

The Lockyer Valley, Burnett-Mary Region, Condamine, Fitzroy Basin and St George have lost tons of fruit and vegetables. Melons and rockmelon were left rotting in fields where farmers were either unable to harvest the fruit, or entire fields went under water. Pumpkins, potato, carrot and beetroot crops were also destroyed. Potato farmers that survived the onslaught are sitting pretty, able to demand triple the price per kilogram than in previous years.

The ripple effect will be felt for months to come. Reports show the price of tomatoes has risen 267 per cent since mid December and broccoli has increased 123 per cent – cucumbers by 111 percent. This week, a single cauliflower in the local supermarket, was marked $6.99. We may well have to set aside our ‘buy local’ convictions for a while to come and accept imported produce.

Or, to quote LNP front bencher, Senator Joyce Barnaby, consumers may have to learn to:

‘get over it and buy it’ if faced with a flood damaged zucchini.

Rather accept a few defects in our formerly pristine produce than see a flood of imported fruit and vegetables – and farmers losing out once again.

I took her advice and purchased a rather muddy melon from a fruit and vegetable store on the outskirts of Brisbane.

The $2 price tag should have been sufficient warning to stay well clear. It was pale, tasteless and went straight to the chicken coop.

Even the chickens didn’t tuck in with their usual fervour.

Buyers beware.

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