Why a lettuce now costs more than your latte

Why a lettuce now costs more than your latte


Grow, harvest, transport – these are the three main steps in the journey that your food takes from seed to plate. Farmers put endless time and care into growing beautiful produce for us all to enjoy. However, months of hard work can be wiped away in minutes when Mother Nature decides to remind us who’s boss. The catastrophic floods which hit NSW and Queensland have had a major effect on the supply of fruit and vegetables. Anthony Joseph, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and exporter, told ABC News that wet weather in south-east Queensland meant lettuce growers lost one crop and struggled to plant the next one as freezing temperatures set in.

In an average year, more than half of the workforce for fruit and vegetable harvesting is made up of backpackers from overseas. COVID-19 stopped this workforce in its tracks and farmers were left with no option but to dig their produce back into the ground as they had no workers to perform the harvest. Currently it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on a lettuce but back in January, Mornington Peninsula farmer Paul Gazzola explained to The Age that he was having to plough 30% of his weekly lettuce supply into the ground as he had no pickers.

Fuel prices have risen sharply so it costs more to get that pretty produce from the farm to your local store. Every disruption to the supply chain, whether it’s a natural disaster, a worker shortage or fuel price increases result in scarcity of particular products, large price increases for the consumer or both. Despite the many challenges facing both farmers and consumers, large supermarkets are still turning away produce because it is imperfect.

The reality is, if the supermarket refuses to buy the produce, much of it is destined to end up in landfill or left to rot on the vine. As Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said, “There’s nothing worse for a farmer who grows something [than] for it to be wasted in the paddock.” The climate is in crisis, many families struggle to put food on the table and yet much of our Australian produce will never be eaten.

It makes for grim reading (and grim writing) but there are better solutions. If you’re reading this article then you’re already playing your part in the solution. The fruit and vegetable industry is currently riding out a perfect storm but luckily at Farmer’s Pick, we view dimples, wrinkles and blemishes as perfectly imperfect.  

Lettuce wrap up on a positive note… As a Farmer’s Pick customer, never forget that you’re helping save the planet, one bendy carrot at a time.