Australia - retail

Australian fruit and vegetable prices have increased over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, with both sectors experiencing an increase in costs associated with labour shortages.

According to ANZ’s latest Agri Commodity Report, which encompasses data from the beginning of the pandemic, retail vegetable prices have increased by over 8 per cent while fruit prices have fallen, despite some quarter to quarter volatility.

“In comparison the prices of fruit as an input to manufacturing has risen by almost 20 per cent in the same period, and vegetable prices have risen only 2 per cent,” said Madeleine Swan, director of ANZ’s food, beverage and agribusiness insights.

“While manufacturing input prices are not a direct indicator of farmgate prices, and will also reflect a lack of cheaper imports, it does provide a rough guide to what prices farmers are receiving.

“The Australian horticulture industry has faced more challenges than most agricultural sectors over the past two years. The seasonal worker shortage has been the topic of most attention, as the Federal Government’s agricultural visa scheme has sought to provide a greater inflow of workers,” she added.

Swan said global freight shortages have also impacted the ability of Australian producers to export a range of fruit products, as well as increasing the cost of many cheaper fruit and vegetable products imported into Australia.

“Seasonally, 2021/22 is shaping up to be a strong year for production in a range of commodities,” she highlighted. “Recent rain and hail events have impacted some production areas, particularly in South Australia and the Lachlan Valley in New South Wales however, with the full impact not yet certain.

“At the same time, a mild winter is expected to lead to increase fruit fly numbers in Victoria and while the State Government has allocated funding towards management, fruit fly is still expected to impact production.”

Swan also said avocado production has surged in both Australia and New Zealand, with many producers now stating that they are selling produce for under production value.

“Almond and macadamia producers are expecting a strong season as a lack of almond supply from California had boosted prices – however recent rains in California will likely see prices return to normal in the new year.”