Vegie price squeeze

INCREASED costs in growing, labouring and shipping of fresh produce have seen producers once again call for fairer food prices.

Jim Ertler, managing director of Premium Fresh, said the raised costs associated with growing and shipping is increasingly taking the shine off good growing seasons.

“Like everyone else, we had a very warm spring and a reasonable summer with periodic rains which grew the crops well and it remained reasonably dry during the last few weeks, which meant no real interruptions during the harvest.
“Broccoli and carrots both grew well this season, so it’s been a reasonably strong season from the growing point of view, but unfortunately at the other end of the business, for us and a lot of farmers it’s been very difficult.”

Mr Ertler

Mr Ertler says Premium Fresh, who grow, package and freight their produce have been feeling the squeeze on all sides.

“We’re in at both ends with input costs, paying for diesel, fertiliser, packaging and labour costs, which have all seen a cost increase across the board, before the produce is out of the ground.

“Then there’s associated costs with freighting, there is freight cost from field-to-shed, then the costs again of getting our product out to consumers.”

Premium Fresh harvest approximately 25,000 to 35,000 tonnes of produce annually, much of which is sent interstate and internationally.

“Domestically we’re looking at an increase of around 25 per cent freighting costs than at the same time last year whereas internationally, some of the destinations have gone up by 250 per cent.”

Mr Ertler said much like many other farmers, Premium Fresh were having to absorb the increased costs as the prices on produce are controlled by supply and demand rather than cost of production.

For many this is unsustainable and Mr Ertler is one of many calling for an increase in food prices.

“There has to be some give and take and there’s got to be some understanding about the cost of vegetables and in fact, the retail price of vegetables is not high.
“A rise of 20 or 30 cents a kilo on carrots, onions or peas at the end of the line will make all the difference to farmers, and it will barely make a difference to the household shopping bill.
“Our market is affected by supply and demand and even though things like the recent floods on mainland Australia has raised the prices and helped Tasmanian producers, we don’t want events like that to save our seasons.”