No fears of fresh produce shortage

Concerns of fresh produce shortage unfounded

Horticulture
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Fruit and veg industry representatives say SA remains well-placed to cover the unprecedented demand because of the corona virus situation.

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AS fruit and vegetables continue to fly off the shelves because of the worsening COVID-19 situation, industry representatives say SA remains well-placed to cover the unprecedented demand.

Ausveg state manager Jordan Brooke-Barnett said demand had been akin to the busiest Christmas rush, but was needed after a slow festive season.

"Our summer period wasn't as busy as we thought it would be, possibly due to the bushfires," he said.

Mr Brooke-Barnett said growers were in constant contact with supermarkets and planting up accordingly.

"We are lucky a lot of our crops have fast turnarounds so we are not seeing any major supply issues," he said.

"But there has been some strain on businesses getting the produce out the door.

Growers are putting on extra shifts and personnel to cope with the demand. - JORDAN BROOKE-BARNETT

"Growers are putting on extra shifts and personnel to cope with the demand."

But Mr Brooke-Barnett assured there would always be plenty of fresh produce available.

"We are very well placed in SA - we produce more than $1 billion of horticultural produce locally," he said.

"There will be certain commodities that may have a price rise, but that is only short-term, as supplies dwindle and growers look to recoup losses. But the margins aren't massive.

"Supermarkets are taking billions right now, so we need to be focusing on what their margins are, rather than the community placing that burden on the farmers."

Mr Brooke-Barnett said labour shortages were also of concern with the closure of state and national borders.

"We are engaging closely with the government on this and we may have to get creative," he said.

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Horticulture Coalition SA president Angelo Demasi agreed demand had been unprecedented, but things were returning to normal.

"Unfortunately we saw the loss of one of our biggest industries - hospitality - this week, which makes up about 19 per cent of our business," he said.

"Thankfully retail has been covering most of the shortfall in demand, but there could be some debt issues going forward - it is something we need to keep an eye on."

As the Adelaide Produce Markets chief executive officer, Mr Demasi also foresaw possible shortages in vegetables that had seasonal limitations, and worried it could continue if the virus hit processing facilities.

"What we need is for consumers to continue to buy fresh produce, but only buy what they need for a week, not over-extend," he said.

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