Fruit and vegetable price volatility compared with the ups and downs of the stock market | Ralph-Lauren

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Are you noticing the changing prices of your favourite fruit and vegetables from week to week?

Melbourne wholesaler Michael Piccolo said he had never seen so much volatility, with the price of ginger tripling but tomatoes more than halving in cost.

Mr Piccolo said COVID-19, a shortage of pickers and last summer’s bushfires were a few of the reasons why.

“Ginger is between $460 and $500 a box, whereas last year at this time it’d only be $150 to $160 a box,” he said.

A bucket of ginger with a price of $55 a kilo in a supermarket
Mr Piccolo said the price of ginger has tripled over the past few months.(ABC: Alexandra Treloar)

“Not a lot is coming down from Queensland. There is high demand and problems with pickers.”

“In our industry apples are usually a pretty stable item, but that’s a product now that’s gone up 30 to 40 per cent because of the loss of pickers and the effects of last summer’s bushfires impacting yield.”

But he said it had been a good season for tomato growers and there was now a surplus in the market.

“Tomatoes are coming from so many different regions at the moment, still a bit from Queensland, a lot out of Victoria and South Australia, so the prices have plummeted.

A man is standing in front of a sign that says 'Piccolo Fresh'
Mr Piccolo says the fruit and vegetable market is like the stock market, and is constantly changing.(Supplied: Michael Piccolo)

Oversupply of tomatoes

The oversupply of tomatoes in Victoria is causing headaches for Bendigo tomato grower Leanne Anderson.

“Being in the middle of summer is when there’s a lot of ripe fruit, so we’re frantically picking,” Ms Anderson said.

“Selling locally is going OK, but selling into the Melbourne market is certainly challenging because there is a glut of fruit available to them at the moment.”

This means she now can’t sell all her ripe tomatoes.

‘Fair compensation for growing fruit’

Shepparton orchardist Peter Hall said apple prices had risen over the past year, due to a shortfall in the national crop.

“Prices are probably higher than what customers have experienced in the past few years,” Mr Hall said.

“There was some impact from the bushfires and issues with water supply, but generally, the crop was a little bit lighter than normal across the nation.”

But he said the rise in prices for apples was long overdue.

“It’s what our industry believes is a fair compensation for the cost of growing fruit,” he said.

Labour shortage, prices hurt stone fruit farmers

Meanwhile, in northern Victoria, stone fruit growers report one of the most challenging harvests in history, with some walking away from the industry altogether.

Michael Tripodi, a producer near Swan Hill, said the quality of the labour had been very poor.

“So, we are scraping at the bottom of the barrel. We are grateful for what we can get but it’s been a very hard year for orchardists,” he said.

A picture of a man picking a peach from a branch covered in the fruit, as he looks at the camera.
Michael Tripodi says farmers are walking away from stone fruit after a massive worker shortage this harvest.(Supplied: Redlands Orchard)

Mr Tripodi said with harvest due to finish in March, any government assistance to attract seasonal workers had been too little and too late.

“It’s hard to get the labourers to do the work, the Government’s schemes haven’t worked and won’t handle the shortfall,” he said.

Mr Tripodi said an oversupply in the market was contributing to low prices for stone fruit; another reason farmers are walking away.

“This year, we’ve increased our picking costs by 25 to 30 per cent from previous years, and it’s pretty hard to reflect that in our market because our prices are not going up to reflect the extra costs we’ve had to incur,” he said.



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