Article by: Hari Yellina
According to one of the top vegetable growers in Western Australia, consumers must continue to pay high prices for vegetables or risk the availability of only frozen imports in stores. On farms north of Perth, Monte Farms cultivates a variety of vegetables, including lettuce, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage. Despite record pricing, Luciano Monte stated that his company has reduced plantings by half this year, a first, due to continued labour shortages and expensive input expenses like petrol and fertiliser. We must survive on the price we are currently receiving, he remarked. “Consumers must adapt to it or else they will have to buy frozen goods or food from other nations.”
“Fertilizer prices have increased by 100%, fuel prices have increased by around 70% to 80%, and labour costs have skyrocketed, reaching up to $34 an hour. “We used to be lucky to earn 80 cents to a dollar for lettuce; today we get two, three, or four dollars for a lettuce, but our production is down by 50% anyway, so you get the same money for less.” High input prices, according to Mr. Monte, entailed too much risk because there was a possibility, he wouldn’t be able to find workers for the harvest.
The exceptional demand for West Australian veggies from the eastern states, according to wholesaler Chris Hewitt of Quality Produce International, has resulted in a considerable increase in vegetable prices at the Canningvale markets. Floods in May and June completely destroyed the winter vegetable harvests in important growing regions of Queensland and New South Wales, resulting in a scarcity of several lines. He claimed that all of your low-lying vegetables were impacted. “Lettuce was the most obvious one, but broccoli was another one; a lot of those items went and still go to NSW and Queensland.” According to Mr. Hewitt, broccoli prices have increased from $22 for an iced eight-kilogram box to $40 to $44 wholesale since this time last year. He claimed that despite extensive advertising, he was unable to get enough workers and urgently need 20 more people for his farm.
He predicted that until around Christmas, there would still be a demand for WA’s vegetables from the east, keeping prices “solid.” It takes a while to recover because, in addition to destroying harvest-ready stock, week-long and month-long plantings are also affected, and equipment cannot access paddocks, according to Mr. Hewitt. “There are a number of various elements that have all combined to create this imperfect storm, which has led to the current pricing and stock levels.”