I’m not sure who’s supposed to be in charge of the store stocks but whoever it is has been severely lacking in their duties. We’re out of petrol, we’re out of eggs, and now it looks like we’re running out of cooking oil as well. Milk and fresh veg are also taking a hammering and let’s not even get into toilet paper — presumably, some people have yet to retire from their self-appointed role as national stock-keeper for the latter.
Every week there seems to be another shortage or lack of stuff that we, as a nation, can’t seem to keep supplied. Yes, it’s all to do with international shipping arrangements and the near collapse of the global transport industry (not to mention climate change and the pandemic) but surely someone should be keeping on top of these things? An unwarranted and overly extended smoko in the domestic pantry department apparently.
With shortages the name of the game and the flavour of the month, we’ve taken the liberty of penning the national shopping list. Here’s what Australia would like the next time someone nips down to the supermarket. Cheers.
Things Australia Is Short On
Are you a watermelon fiend? Would you gobble one of these bad boys up for $34.00? No? That’s way too expensive? Well, fair enough. But according to Nine News, that’s how much they are currently going for at Woolworths.
It’s worth noting that Woolworths has disputed this claim. A spokesperson said to The Latch over the phone that their watermelons aren’t $34.00 each, they are currently $3.90 a kilo. This person said that you would need a particularly large watermelon to get such a chungus price.
Now, Woolworths’ argument would work in their favour if the average size of a watermelon was one or two kilos. But this isn’t the case. As per What About a Watermelon, the average watermelon is between nine and 11 kilos. This would mean the price of an average-sized Woolworths watermelon would currently be between $35.10 and $42.90. Ergo, the watermelon that Nine News discussed was smaller than your average melon.
But let’s put average watermelon sizes aside for a sec, why is this fruit so expensive at the moment? Well, the Woolworths spokesperson said in an email that some bad weather and poor growing conditions were partly to blame. They noted, “We pay farmers the market price for their produce, which can vary throughout the year due to weather, seasonality, supply, and demand.”
This spokesperson also stated, “Watermelon is not currently in peak season, impacting the availability of the produce.”
Don’t worry, we’re not about to launch an illegal international invasion of a foreign power under the guise of bringing freedom. Arguably, with the better-late-than-never efforts of federal and state governments to support electric vehicle infrastructure, this kind of oil is even more pressing than petroleum.
Shoppers are being told to “brace themselves” for a national cooking oil shortage that is set to drive up the cost of the vital ingredient in anything tasty. In the past 12 months alone, cooking oil has risen 14%, second only to fruit and vegetables in the consumer price index.
Cooking oil, predominantly made from sunflowers, is being hit by, you guessed it, the war in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest exporters of the yellow stuff and both have had shipments heavily impacted by the fighting. Another great reason you don’t invade a sovereign democracy.
In addition, poor soya bean harvests in Brazil and across the rest of South America have made this other key ingredient more expensive. Already, food manufacturers in Aus, like industry giant Goodman Fielder who produce tonnes of brands including Helga’s, Medowlea, and Whole Earth, are having to substitute sunflower oil for canola in key products like mayonnaise.
It’s unclear just how long this shortage will go on for but, given it’s dependent on major global events, we’re unlikely to see relief anytime soon.
Chicken and Wheat
While the planet is currently not suffering a chicken shortage, the war in Ukraine has created a shortage of wheat. According to The Guardian, this wheat shortage is now cranking up the price of a chook.
“Wheat is the biggest ingredient in chicken feed, so you can imagine that that has had a very significant impact on the price of feed generally, and therefore the price of producing chicken,” explained the Australian Chicken Meat Foundation’s Executive Officer, Dr. Vivien Kite. “Feed costs represent somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of the total cost of producing chicken.”
Australia is already starting to feel the impacts of this shortage. Our biggest chicken supplier, Ingham’s, has confirmed that it isn’t eating a loss and is instead selling its product at a higher price. “We are talking to customers in all our channels, whether that be retail, quick-service restaurants, food service customers, butchers, and the like; so we’re having to pass on increased prices right across the market,” stated Ingham’s Chief Executive, Andrew Reeves.
Reeves also noted, “Those customers will inevitably pass some of those prices on to consumers, which is already starting to be apparent in the marketplace.”
We’ve previously reported on the fact that the country is running out of eggs. During the lockdowns, egg producers in Australia cut the size of their flocks by up to 20% and, given the time it takes to get a chicken from chick to egg-laying maturity, it may be some time before production can be ramped up.
Hens don’t start laying eggs until four or five months into their life cycle, meaning shortages now can’t simply be made up by breeding more chickens. In addition, hens don’t lay as many eggs in winter as they do in summer months when daylight increases their temperatures.
This one seems surmountable, however, we could be looking at a few months without a sunny side until production has caught up with demand. As always, that means more expensive omelettes.
The fact that we even grow almonds in this country is a crime against nature and a hubristic affront to the designs of the good lord. Growing a single almond requires 4.1 litres of water, a resource we are famously short of in this country. Granted, all nuts are thirsty buggers, with walnuts needing around 25 litres a pop, yet Australia still produces more almonds (and walnuts) than almost anywhere else in the world.
Last year, the production of almonds reached 120,000 tonnes and we’re aggressively trying to expand that. Most of the produce is exported to China, however this year we may need to rethink our strategy if we want to keep enjoying them.
That’s because the varroa mite, a particularly nasty parasite that has recently entered the country, is causing havoc with the bees. Our stripe-y friends have been put on lockdown to stop the spread of the lethal infection which has been detected in hives in New South Wales.
As such, Victorian almond growers, who normally import bees from NSW during the pollinating season, are going to struggle to get their trees pregnant. Since Vic makes 60% of Australia’s almonds, we’re looking at a loss of 30,000 tonnes here.
The impacts won’t be felt immediately, but it may be an idea to get a taste for oat milk soon.
While we’re out, might as well pop into the chemist and see if we can grab, I dunno, any of the more than 300 medicines that we’re in “dire” need of, according to doctors and pharmacists from the Pharmacy Guild.
There have been recent alarm bells sounded in the medical industry about low supplies of 320 drugs, 50 of which are considered critical, with a further 80 that could soon be added to the list.
These include things like medications for diabetes, hormone replacement therapy, depression, nausea, stroke, and even contraception. Oh, and if you’re planning to get bitten by a funnel web spider, better do it soon as we’re apparently close to running out of the antivenom for that.
This issue is hurting real communities. For instance, a doctor in Ballarat told The New Daily that he received an email stating that the ADHD drug Ritalin was no longer available. This also encouraged him to instead recommend substitute medications to his patients.
This news frustrated said doctor because “anything else that you give them, which is usually an anti-depressant or a behaviour modifying drug, it’s never as good.” He also admitted, “I’m now saying, well, yes, your child needs Ritalin, but GPs are not allowed to prescribe Ritalin, and there isn’t any available at the moment anyway.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners President, Karen Price, has said that global supply chain issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic is causing the delay in deliveries. A national strategy for how to get the medicines we need has to be worked out immediately, she advises.
“There’s many drugs that we’re now encountering that people are unable to get, and that’s a big issue for Australia,” she said.
“For a developed nation, it is pretty dire, and medicines are not easily substituted between each other.”
One solution, planned increases to minimum stock holdings for PBS-listed medicines, is not set to come into effect for another 12 months and, even when it does, it will mean price rises.
Blackberries, Tomatoes, and Asparagus, Oh My
Woolworths has recently dropped its Fresh Market Update, and not all the info in it’s pretty. This is because bad growing conditions have impacted a whack of their stock. For instance, Lebanese cucumbers and lettuce won’t be available for a few weeks. Spring onions have also been impacted in a similar fashion for the chain’s Victorian, NSW, and Queenslander customers.
But unfortunately, the list of affected produce doesn’t end there. Items like blackberries, raspberries, and their Fresh Cut fruit mixes will be in limited supply until late August. Meanwhile, there won’t be an abundance of asparagus in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory, and Tassie until early September.
Other produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and red capsicums have also been hit by bad times, but Woolworths hasn’t outlined when the supply for these items will improve. Plus, due to the floods in Queensland and the frost in Victoria, most states won’t be getting as many leafy greens.
If you want to support our farmers and get some A+ veggies, then here’s a rad article by the folks over at Thrillist that’ll help you out: The Best Alternatives to Lettuce You Can Buy in Australia Right Now
Not exactly the kind of thing you want to be picking up at Kmart, but, while you’re out, could you find us some teachers? Some nurses too would be great. Thanks.
Unemployment is at an all-time low which is great if you want a job but not so great if you need to fill a position. It’s a familiar tale by now but, since the pandemic, we’ve struggled to get the staff to do the things we need. Big hits have been taken in the airline, hospitality, transport, and retail industries and while this exerts good upward pressure on wages, it also means we’re not getting the services we need.
Although being unable to get a good coffee or a slap-up meal in regional areas isn’t the end of the world, not having a good education or nursing sector is critical. Australia’s education ministers are meeting this week to attempt to address the national teacher shortage – which may have something to do with not paying them or listening to the concerns of the unions, at a guess. Demand is expected to outstrip supply in the education sector by 4,000 roles in the coming years.
It’s a similar story for nurses, with some estimates putting the shortage at 8,000 unfilled positions across the country. The nursing profession is also one that has been on strike recently due to poor working conditions and lack of pay. Funny that. If we don’t address the problem soon, modelling by Health Workforce Australia predicts we’ll be lacking 85,000 nurses in just three years time.