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Price hike ahead for popular Aussie supermarket fruits

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
Citrus fruits are expected to cost more this winter. (Source: Getty)
Citrus fruits are expected to cost more this winter. (Source: Getty)

Australian shoppers can expect to see the price of citrus fruit rise this winter as worker shortages in the agricultural and farming industry continue to bite.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said to expect supply issues for citrus fruit as there are fewer hands to pick the fruit, meaning a slower and more prolonged harvest.

"When we have a situation that supply is short that can drive prices up," Hancock told the ABC.

"There will be certain varieties that will lose shelf life as they sit on the tree and they will just have to be abandoned."

Queensland University of Technology professor Gary Mortimer told Yahoo Finance that some fruits and vegetables grown this year will never be harvested.

"This is simple a supply and demand equation – if famers can’t harvest, they can’t supply, and accordingly, prices will naturally inflate," he said.

In a bid to fill the labour shortage, the South Australian Government has announced a dedicated quarantine facility for 1,200 workers from the Pacific Island.

But employers will have to contribute $2,500 per worker, a cost that citrus farmers and packing operators have said is too high, adding further burden to the industry.

However, Hancock doesn’t think the 1,200 workers from the Pacific Islands will be enough.

“There is not enough scheduled [workers] to come in with the seasonal worker program as it currently is, and there are certainly not enough working holiday makers or students around to make up the shortfall,” he said.

The labour shortage will see mandarin prices rise as the international travel ban means growers aren’t seeing the typical horde of backpacker-pickers to harvest their crops.

"This time last year we had a couple of hundred people on Facebook wanting to come for the citrus season, and this year we haven't got any,” said Picky Packers Hostel owner Mark Postle.

Picky Packers Hostel is based in Queensland’s North Burnett, which is the largest producer of mandarins in the country, and needs around 2,000 workers during peak harvest season, the ABC reported.

"How that's going to play out for the orchardists and farmers, we're not sure, but it doesn't look positive."

Bundaberg Start Fresh Fruit Market shop manager April Elazzi has said she’s already observed “a little bit of a price rise” in the last few weeks.

"The prices will rise accordingly to what the farmers can pick, and what seasonal fruits are out at that time," she told ABC.

The warning about price hikes for citrus fruit is just the latest amid a string of warnings from farmers and growers as they struggle to find people to pick and harvest their produce.

Summer vegetable and fruit prices were expected to rise as much as 29 per cent this year, according to a recent report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

“Fruit prices are expected to rise most, because fruit production is likely to be most adversely affected by reduced labour supply,” ABARES said in its horticulture report for the March 2021 quarter.

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