Canny shoppers rewarded as drought pushes grocery prices up


Latest official data released on Wednesday showed that vegetable prices spiked by 7.7 per cent in the first three months of this year even as the broader inflation rate hit record lows.

The ongoing drought was blamed for the increase which also push up poultry and fruit prices. The biggest moves were seen in the pries for broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and asparagus.

Havill says she didn’t mind paying a little more than usual to support farmers doing it tough.

“The drought is bound to affect prices at the market. Farmers are suffering and we see the drip down here in the market but what can you do? That’s life,” Havill tells The Age and the Herald carrying her basket at the Footscray Market in Melbourne’s inner west.

“I am happy to pay more because of the drought. The farmers have to survive. If the farmers go under we have no food at all.”

Leicester O’Loughlin has been chef at the Prince Alfred Hotel in Port Melbourne for three months and buys meat for the pub’s restaurant from the market as had done in previous jobs for about the past 10 years.

Farmers are suffering and we see the drip down here in the market but what can you do? That’s life.

Shopper Christine Havill

“We have definitely noticed grocery prices going up because of the drought,” O’Loughlin says.

“Especially for beef, it seems to be up five to 10 per cent over the last year. But that’s why a lot more chefs are starting to buy direct from the market rather than going through big suppliers. We get better prices here.

“Prices from suppliers that deliver to the restaurants are say, for beef ribs, close to $15 per kilo. These market beef ribs are $8.50 per kilo.

“They used to be $5 or $6 per kilo here two years ago though.”

Leicester O’Loughlin buys meat for his restaurant at the market because even though its more expensive due to the drought, it’s cheaper than from most suppliers. Credit:Joe Armao

O’Loughlin goes to the same butcher because he knows the quality is good. It means prices stay reasonable at the pub’s restaurant as people expect to pay under a certain amount for pub food.

“Premium cuts are getting to the point where they don’t sell as much,” he says.

Lan Do manages one of the market’s fishmongers, Kelvin & Ryan Seafoods and sees an opportunity in rising prices for other products.

As the drought caused prices of fruit and meat to rise she said it would push people to buy more seafood, the price of which has stayed steady.

Lan Do notices more people buy fish when drought pushed meat and produce prices higher.

Lan Do notices more people buy fish when drought pushed meat and produce prices higher. Credit:Joe Armao

“In Footscray Market fish is still very cheap,” Do says. “Frozen fish stays the same price, fresh fish prices go up and down.

“People want to eat more seafood than meat because they think it is better for them and if the meat is more expensive I hope so that people buy more fish.”

Anthony is a reporter at The Age.

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