Time to come the raw prawn as grocery prices dip

Jacob Saulwick
December 3, 2010

IT WILL be a rare experience grocery shopping this Christmas: prices are flatlining or falling.

For much of the year, supermarket chains have reported little rise in the prices of fruit, vegetables and other staples.

Not all prices are down – constant rain in the eastern states has driven up the cost of tomatoes in particular. But the trend has been sharp enough for Andrew Reitzer, the head of the Metcash business that runs IGA stores, to claim this week that produce prices have slipped 11 per cent in the past six months, and dry packaged groceries are down 1.7 per cent. 

According to Coles and Woolworths prices for bananas, the biggest selling food item in the supermarket, have been the big slider, falling about 20 per cent this year. Cucumbers are down 40 per cent and peas and beans are also cheaper than in 2009.

Tomatoes have climbed just as much as bananas have fallen, Victorian apples are almost twice as dear as last year, and capsicum is up 70 per cent.

Bureau of Statistics figures show that beef and lamb costs have held steady in the past year, and pork has dipped.

The manager of Banana Joe’s store in Marrickville, Lecha Khouri, said there had been little in the way of big price increases this year. ”There hasn’t been any increases in milk or bread or eggs or things like that.” he said.

”In the past – last year and the year before – they were rising every three months or so. But now it’s not like that.”

Various reasons have been put forward for the price halt. The high Australian dollar is making it harder for farmers to export, leaving more produce for sale at home. The drought has broken. And, as national accounts figures released yesterday showed, consumers are also being more discerning.

The household saving rate jumped to 10.2 per cent. Apart from the one-off spike triggered by the government’s stimulus payments, this is its highest level since 1987.

Some of those savings might end up on the barbecue. ”Prawns are the story this year, prawns will be cheap,” the sales manager for De Costi Seafood, Frank Theodore, said.

”We’ve had fantastic weather … throughout Christmas prawn prices will be 35 per cent, in my opinion, if not cheaper than any other Christmas. They will be the cheapest prawns in the last 10 years sold at Christmas,” Mr Theodore said.

Reference: http://www.sea-ex.com/news/

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