Supermarkets are battling to keep shelves stocked with some of Australian shoppers’ favourite fresh fruit and vegetables as extreme weather and ongoing COVID-related supply chain issues continue to bite.
Among the items that shoppers might find missing are a range of tomatoes, zucchinis, beans and broccoli.
Woolworths general manager of fruit and veg Paul Turner said the supermarket was also struggling to source regular supplies of lettuce and berries, noting stock levels were unlikely to stabilise for weeks.
Mr Turner said last Friday that recent heavy rain and a prolonged run of grey days across Queensland were mostly to blame.
But it’s not only Woolworths that is struggling with its supply chains.
Aldi Australia customer interactions director Adrian Christie said the heavy rain was also causing major disruptions for the discount supermarket chain.
“We are doing everything we can to bring the best-quality Australian fruit and vegetables to our stores while continuing to support our growers through challenges,” Mr Christie said.
“The growing season has been severely impacted by storms and hail, which is why some produce may look a little different on the outside.”
Prices are also rising.
A Coles spokesperson told TND that several factors were driving the inflation, including increasing costs of raw materials, energy price rises, freight costs, extreme weather and ongoing COVID-19 impacts.
The Coles spokesperson said the company was working with its suppliers in flood-hit areas as they re-establish operations.
Hope on the horizon for supermarket shoppers
Queensland University of Technology consumer and retail expert Gary Mortimer said crops had been hit hard by this year’s devastating floods and heavy rain across Queensland and New South Wales.
But Dr Mortimer said although COVID case numbers were less of a focus, the virus was still “rife within the community“.
“Drivers, pickers, production staff, warehousing staff often have to isolate if they get sick,” he said.
Backpackers and seasonal fruit pickers are also yet to return to Australia in their typical numbers, making it challenging to get produce off farms and into supermarkets.
But while supermarkets face challenges in getting fresh produce into stores, leading to the shortages and price hikes, supplies should improve in coming months, Dr Mortimer said.
“Now Australia is open to international tourism, as well as seasonal workers, I think we’ll start to see those numbers float back pretty quickly,” he said.
“As we move into the new semester in July this year, I think we’ll see an influx of international students entering the country. That’s going to obviously provide some support for picking roles, as well as logistics, driving and those types of roles.”
Meanwhile, there is some hope for shoppers worried about missing out or paying through the nose for some seasonal produce.
Mr Turner said other products, such as apples, pears, citrus fruits, Hass avocados and white washed potatoes, were in strong supply.