In some stores, a lettuce is selling for 12 dollars against 3 dollars in normal times. The war in Ukraine, but also the violent bad weather in March are at the origin of a record increase in the price of fruits and vegetables.
“This looks like a sign of the apocalypse,” exclaims a stunned Australian KFC customer on Twitter. The discovery he just made is most astounding: the fast-food restaurant where he goes announces that, from now on and “until further notice”, the lettuce that garnishes its burgers and wraps will be replaced by “a mixture of lettuce and cabbage”. The reaction may seem disproportionate but it is symbolic of the growing economic difficulties. At the beginning of March, Australia was hit by huge floods, the fast-food chain claims to justify this change in its recipes. Add to this the disruption of supply chains caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
In Australia, as elsewhere in the world, inflation is reaching new heights and concerns all areas of expenditure: fuel, energy, consumer goods, etc. But on the island, the increase in the price of fruit and vegetables is particularly significant. According to the latest figures of the consumer price index, vegetables have undergone an increase in their cost of about 12.7%.
Interesting sign at KFC – due to lettuce shortages caused by flooding, instead of lettuce they are using a 'lettuce and cabbage blend'!!!— Gum on the sole of China’s shoe (@ProfundumPhoto) May 31, 2022
So does this mean some sort of manufactured mock-lettuce, or actual whole pieces of cabbage leaf?
Feels like a sign of the apocalypse pic.twitter.com/DZh58D8UyX
The price of lettuce has quadrupled
Iceberg lettuce has been particularly hard hit by this price increase. The state of Queensland accounted for more than a third of Australia’s 139,000 tons of lettuce production in 2021, according to statistics from Hort Innovation Australia. However, this region in the north-east of the country was the most affected by the bad weather in March. The vegetable is now hard to find on the shelves, and when a store sells it, it is at an exorbitant price. In a supermarket in the town of Redcliffe, shoppers have spotted lettuce being sold for 12 Australian dollars (about 8 euros). Previously, such a product did not exceed 3 dollars (2 euros).
As for the cabbage, KFC did not explain why it was chosen to replace part of the lettuce in its burgers. The gustatory proximity between these two vegetables is surely for something. As well as the cost: cabbage production is less affected by floods than lettuce production. But it is not spared because, still according to Hort Innovation Australia, Queensland produces 32% of it.
The situation is already worrying. It should get even worse in the coming months. In addition to ruining fields already planted, persistent rains have significantly damaged the land in Queensland, which is Australia’s giant vegetable garden. “It’s too wet to plant the next crop,” Tyson Cattle, spokesman for the Australian vegetable growers’ union AusVeg, told 9News.
“We’re still experiencing supply problems with lettuce and berries. By the time the new crops are planted, it will take a few weeks for stocks to return to more stable levels,” said Paul Turner, manager of the Woolworths supermarket chain. The supply problems are expected to continue, both in the retail and restaurant sectors. To the great displeasure of Australian KFC lovers.