Milk is over $9 and a can of instant coffee is an incredible $84. These are real prices – and they show just how dire things are for some Australian shoppers.
Consumers across the country are being hit by the cost of living crisis, which has sent prices for staples like lettuce and milk skyrocketing.
But shocking photos shared on social media show how grocery bills are costing more in some places – and reveal just how dire the situation has become.
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A picture of an April receipt from a store in the town of Kaltukatjara, southwest of Alice Springs, showed a two-litre carton of milk costing $9.20.
At a Sydney Woolworths, the same product was being sold for just $3.10 this week.
Donna Donzow, operations manager for the non-profit EON Foundation which helps grow and supply fresh produce to communities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, said she noticed the unusually high grocery store prices in June when she was in Minyerri, a town 240 km to the southeast. of Katherine.
“The cost of a pack of mixed salads was $17,” Donzow told 7NEWS.com.au.
By comparison, a bag of mixed salad at a Sydney Woolworths this week is just $3.
High food prices in remote areas are caused by a range of issues including long supply chains, poor roads and transport costs – and experts say more needs to be done to address the problem. problem.
A long-standing problem
Food has been more expensive in the regions than in our biggest cities for years – as the photos on social media show.
A photo shared in 2020 showed a can of instant coffee being sold at a Hope Vale grocery store in remote Queensland for $84, according to the poster.
According to a 2021 report by health policy organization Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (Amsant), food in supermarkets is 56% more expensive in remote communities than in regional supermarkets.
A 2020 survey by MP Julian Leeser echoed these findings, stating that “the cost of buying food is significantly higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities than for people living in more major population centers in urban and regional Australia”.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the cost of groceries has risen 5.9% across all Australian capitals since June last year – and there’s reason to believe costs are rising in the regions too rural Australia, where prices were already astronomically high.
In Minyerri, for example, Donzow said he saw signs around the store informing community members that fruit and vegetable costs had increased due to flooding in Australia’s southern states.
EON Foundation Executive Chair Caroline de Mori said she had a similar experience.
“I heard people complaining the other day about a lettuce for sale in Sydney for $8, but can you imagine what it’s like when you go a few thousand miles inland? ” said of Mori.
“You end up paying $12 for a brown-headed broccoli.”
“It’s only getting worse”
The huge costs aren’t just a problem for putting food on the table now – they have ripple effects for the future.
De Mori told 7NEWS.com.au the lack of cheap fruit and vegetables meant some shoppers were turning to processed foods.
“By the time everything arrives (in remote communities), it’s musty and not fresh, so that’s not necessarily an option,” she said.
“That means we’re seeing astronomically higher rates of illness and health issues in these communities, and it’s only getting worse.”
De Mori added that some communities only had one store selling essentials for the whole town.
“Because they have the monopoly, they can charge whatever they want and it seems like a terrible downward spiral,” she said.
Amanda Lee, professor of public health policy at the University of Queensland, told 7NEWS.com.au that experts have recommended many solutions over the years, but little has been done overall.
Lee recommends subsidizing transport costs and preventing supermarkets from marking up fruits and vegetables.
“Unfortunately, although there is a long list of recommendations from all the investigations over the past 40 years…there has been very little collective action to address them.”