Murraylands lettuce producers struggle to meet nationwide supply shortage
Swanport Harvest's Kathy Ruggiero says several factors have created the perfect storm for customers.
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Anyone who has been grocery shopping recently would have noticed that the humble lettuce has become a luxury item for most households.
In the past few weeks, lettuce prices have sky-rocketed, some stores have been unable to replenish stock and fast food chains have had to adapt by mixing cabbage into their lettuce.
Naturally, many consumers have taken to social media to complain.
Swanport Harvest co-owner Kathy Ruggiero said that although growers could not determine the exact cause, since it was the market that set the price, several factors were creating “the perfect storm”.
“The first reason is the recent floods in Queensland … they all lost their crops,” she said.
“They usually send their products down south, but now we’re having to send our stock to them.
“Demand for lettuces in Queensland and New South Wales has increased … so there is a supply shortage.”
Hailstorm-affected crops in Virginia last year were another reason Swanport Harvest’s produce was in high demand.
“Overall there has been a lot of hurt environmentally,” Ms Ruggiero said.
Increased pricing of business essentials such as fertiliser, freight, fuel and packaging had also contributed to the spike in lettuce prices.
“The cost of fertiliser has been progressively going up due to relationships with China and the war in Ukraine; both of these countries export products used in fertiliser making,” she said.
As growers, she said, “we find it just as unbelievable as the consumers”.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.
“Lately, lettuces have been costing $12 each, when we used to sell a box of them for $14 and just barely cover our costs.
“It’s one of those instances where the planets have aligned and anything and everything has gone wrong instead of right.”