RESEARCH by Deakin University has found that healthy diets can cost as much as 50 per cent of the disposable income of Australians living in rural and remote areas (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups) because of rampant inflation.
The study by Deakin's Institute for Health Transformation found that before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy diets cost a low-income family of four about one-quarter to one-third of their income (after tax).
One in four Australians indicated that grocery shopping had a big financial impact on their household budgets.
The researchers found the prices of vegetables, particularly lettuce, broccoli and tomato have soared over the past few years.
Lettuce was $5.00 per head in June 2022 - the most expensive it's been in the last two years.
From June 2021 to June 2022, iceberg lettuce went from a national average of $2.00 per head, to $5 a head in 2022 - a 150 per cent increase in 12 months.
The price of broccoli increased from $6.90 a kg to $11.90 dollars a kg - a 72 per cent increase in 12 months.
Tomato prices rose by 25 per cent in the same period.
But researchers found the price of eggs, bottled water, canned tuna, apples, carrots, onions, and sweet corn did not rise in the last 12 months.
"Growers are doing it really tough at the moment, and are facing emotional and financial stress from weather events and increasing costs of production," an AUSVEG spokesperson said.
The increased costs were due to global economic factors, supply chain and global shipping issues, the war in Ukraine, labour shortages, and severe weather events.
AUSVEG said consumers should shop around for in-season fresh vegetables to get value for their money, and should shop locally to support local growers, which in turn supports regional and rural communities.
Despite tough conditions for growers, AUSVEG remained optimistic for the future of produce in Australia.
"As growers in southern Queensland recover and begin to increase production following significant floods earlier in the year, consumers should expect to see more produce coming from the region, which will increase the availability of many lines of fresh vegetables for consumers on the eastern seaboard," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for supermarket giant Coles said the company was "optimistic of improving volumes in coming weeks."
And while some vegetable prices remained high or were out of stock, the Coles spokesperson said the supermarket had reduced the prices of about 1,000 items across a range of more than 20,000 products.
Some of the reduced items included chicken drumsticks, regular beef mince, smoked salmon, roasted almonds, shortcut bacon, and meat. Other items - such as Coles brand pasta, tuna, and beef and pork meatballs - had remained the same price for the past year.
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