Wet weather bears fruit for some

THIS summer’s weather may be a let-down, but Sydneysiders can enjoy some of the lowest fruit and vegetable prices in years.

”You better believe it … I’m selling four mangoes for $5. Last year it was two for $5,” said Frank Vecchio, owner of the Wynyard Park fruit stand in Sydney’s CBD. In his 20 years of business, Mr Vecchio said he has not seen such quantities of produce at fruit and vegetable wholesale markets.

The chief executive officer of NSW Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries, Colin Gray, said the oversupply was caused by a decline in consumer demand due to the recent unseasonal wet weather. Consequently, wholesale and retail prices have fallen.
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”The problem with the weather is that people are not buying as much, not enjoying barbecues with the fruit and salad bowls,” Mr Gray said.

In particular, the cooler weather has not enthused customers to buy traditional summer fruits such as mangoes, stone fruits and watermelons, according to Bill Chalk, wholesaler and partner of Southern Cross Produce.

He said wholesale prices for mangoes were $1-$2 per kilo compared with $5 per kilo last year and white peaches were $1-$1.50 per kilo, the lowest in years.

”The lower prices are a great thing for the public but it’s heartbreaking for the farmers,” said Mr Chalk, who has experienced a 30 per cent decrease in turnover this year.

The chairman of NSW Farmers Horticulture Committee, Peter Darley, said retailers were responsible for the low wholesale prices. He said the large supermarkets had been purchasing only half the quantity of product at the wholesale markets because they want to earn a higher profit margin rather than have a higher turnover of fruit and vegetables.

The effect of lower prices has been borne by growers. ”Every farmer I have talked to is concerned about sustaining their cash flow on such low [wholesale] prices,” said Mr Darley.

The low wholesale prices have been sharply felt by farmers who have lost produce in the wet weather. Grower John Maguire of Enniskillen Orchards, in the Grose Valley, said rain in October and November wiped out some of his peach and nectarine crops.

Mr Maguire’s strawberries were also affected by mould. ”I pick one, throw out eight … and with decreased wholesale prices. It’s such a battle,” he said.

Wet weather bears fruit for some

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