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Public comment on fresh produce price rise

Dandenong Market remains open for business and will be trading normal hours.

Global sourcing and market intelligence experts* anticipate COVID-19 will continue impacting food prices and markets across the globe as the number of cases spreads.

Sometimes prices for basic goods increase during a health emergency or after a natural disaster like our January bushfires. This often happens because it costs businesses more to get goods into their shops.

Price increases have led many people to take to social media, accusing major supermarkets, independent retailers and our own traders of profiteering and price gouging at a time of crisis.

Demand has exceeded supply for things like toilet paper and hand sanitiser for weeks now and recently we have seen panic around Panadol, nappies, asthma puffers and meat.

Because our traders are buying produce fresh from the wholesale market or directly from farmers every Market day, the price is directly affected by demand.

Our butchers are not having their orders fulfilled due to exceeding demand which is impacting price.

Peak vegetable growers body AusVeg suggests that the price increases have more to do with another story, one that has fallen from the headlines in recent weeks: the ongoing, devastating droughts and bushfires that ravaged Australia over the summer.

There’s been a reduced supply as a result of drought as well as seasonal fluctuations in supply, as production regions transition.

The reduced supply has coincided with panicked shoppers clearing shelves, driving prices even higher.

In January, well before the COVID-19 crisis hit Australian shores and shifted consumer behaviour, growers warned of a 50 per cent increase in vegetable prices. Now a supply shortage is coinciding with a spike in demand.

Vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables including rocket and spinaches, and root vegetables such as potatoes and pumpkins have all been impacted. However, there is an abundance of fruit. 

Due to pressures throughout the horticultural supply chain caused by drought, unseasonal weather and an unprecedented spike in demand, we’re currently seeing an impact on the availability of some fresh fruit and vegetable lines. This has led to higher wholesale costs for some fruit and vegetable lines across the Market.

On 24 March, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Rod Sims directly attributed grocery price hikes to “unnecessary panic buying”, saying: “Australia’s supermarkets have experienced unprecedented demand for groceries in recent weeks, both in store and online, which has led to shortages of some products and disruption to delivery services.

In order to meet that demand growers and retailers have been working to try and keep that supply on market shelves. Growers no longer have a casual workforce which traditionally have been made up of international travellers. As a result, some of the production costs in terms of labour and transport have gone up.

We have suspended our weekly specials e-newsletter to more than 4400 subscribers because prices cannot be guaranteed. Our traders source fresh produce every Market day with both supply and price changing daily. We know how important special deals are for our regular customers and this is a reluctant temporary measure.

As availability of fresh produce increases over time, as we expect it will, demand levels will resume to what we normally expect for this time of year and. as a result of that, prices will lower to reflect the increased availability.

We know our customers will continue to support their community and small businesses the same way they have over the Market’s rich 153-year-old history

*Tridge, global data and intelligence analysts in food and agriculture

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    Dandenong Market

    Clow Street & Cleeland Street
    Dandenong, VIC 3175

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