NationalNews

Why lettuce and other vegetables are so expensive or not on shelves

In one supermarket, a single iceberg lettuce sells for $12.

And at others, the crispy vegetable isn't available at all.

While cost of living pressures are going up across the board, few products have been impacted as much as vegetables.

READ MORE: Iceberg lettuce sells for $12 in Queensland grocery store

Global supply chain issues and the war on Ukraine have been the usual culprits when it comes to inflation impacting Australians, but when it comes to the vegetable crisis, most of the blame lies on the weather.

At this time of the year, much of the vegetables on Australian supermarket shelves are coming from Queensland – specifically the Lockyer Valley as well as Scenic Rim and Stanthorpe.

But three months of rain have all but wiped out an entire crop of common vegetables.

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Many lettuce items are unavailable in the Woolworths online shop.

Flooding and persistent rain has prevented planting, ruined harvesting and washed away the topsoil, according to Ausveg's Tyson Cattle.

"It's too wet to go out there and plant the next crop," Cattle said.

"That's causing a sharp increase in prices right now for a lot of fresh vegetable lines."

Unfortunately this means there won't be any reprieve in high vegetable prices for some time yet.

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Knopke Bridge on Summerholm Rd is currently closed due to impacts from yesterday's storm, Lockyer Valley Regional Council advised

"Most vegetables mature in 12 to 16 weeks, so we're looking at three to four months," Cattle said.

"Our main priority at the moment is to try and give growers the tools to plant the next crop. We don't know how long that's going to take.

"Even when there is supply that comes onto that market, it's our expectation is that prices will remain reasonably high."

The weather is to blame for most of the vegetable shortages, but there's more to the high prices than a shortage of supply.

Prices of fuel, fertiliser and many other things essential to farming have skyrocketed in recent months – thanks in large part to the war in Ukraine.

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Russia is both a major producer of fertiliser and oil, and with sanctions preventing their exports, prices have surged.

"Our data tells us that growers' costs of production have gone up 35-45 percent across the board," Cattle said.

"We have a lot of growers that were essentially planting and growing their product at a loss."

Woolworths fruit and vegetable general manager Paul Turner said heavy rain and low sunlight in Queensland had affected supply and quality of tomatoes, zucchini, beans and broccolini.

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"We're still seeing challenges with lettuce and berry supply so while the new crops have been planted, it will take a few weeks for stocks to return to more stable levels," Turner said.

"Right now apples and citrus are at their peak, and pears and white washed potatoes are in strong supply and great value for our customers."

There's little reprieve for the Lockyer Valley vegetable growers today, with heavy rain forecast today and Monday.

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