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The reason fruit and veg shops are price gouging amid coronavirus

Trying to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet has never been of such high importance – but it's also coming at a high price.

Shoppers have been taking to social media to expose so-called price gouging at their local supermarkets and independent fruit shops.

Some businesses have been selling single packs of toilet paper for $9 while the price of celery varies between $9 and $16.

At one suburban Brisbane shopping strip one store is selling lettuce for $7 while just a few steps away it is less than $5 at another business.

Many people have assumed sellers are jacking up prices to profiteer off the coronavirus pandemic but experts say while it's a factor, it's not the only reason.

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"There is panic buying but then there are also other factors," Richard Shannon, manager of policy and advocacy at Growcom told 9News.

"We've just come out of a long drought here in Australia that has affected a number of our really important growing regions.

"So you can expect today that to have ongoing effect on supply but then also price."

He also explained with the change of seasons this time of year, there was a regular shift in production and some gaps in supply.

"The seasons change so we are seeing a shift in our production from Victoria to Queensland in the winter," he said.

"With that transition there are some gaps in supply so that's where you'll see prices rise normally."

Mr Shannon acknowledged prices were the highest we had seen in some time.

"Prices are quite high and some of our supermarkets are reporting demand that is twice, even three times normal. So that's inevitably going to have an impact on supply."

"With all that extra demand prices will have to go up."

Professor Gary Mortimer, a researcher in food retail and consumer behaviour, agreed the price hike was driven more by climate conditions than panic buying.

"We have certainly seen fruit and veg and also meat prices increase over the last couple of months," Prof Mortimer said.

"A lot of that has to do with the drought and more recent bushfires down south."

But he warned smaller retailers had more to gain financially by increasing their prices.

"One of the benefits of the big supermarkets is that they do have uniformed pricing," Mr Mortimer said.

"It gets a little bit more challenging for some of the smaller independent players where there is a little bit of flexibility on how they can set their prices.

"Price gouging is a short-term strategy. It is really a great way to cop customer flak against your brand if you do it."

Coronavirus: Shoppers continue to panic buy

Both experts agreed the best way to avoid price gouging is to check prices online ahead of time.

"I would advise shoppers to shop around essentially. Look up your local grocer online and even markets where they're still open. Look somewhere else than normal," Mr Shannon said.

Current advice to all Australians under the Government's social distancing laws it to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Doing your research online instead of spending unnecessary time at the shops is all part of protecting your health and the health of others.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-price-gouging-is-happening-but-not-for-the-reasons-you-think-panic-buying/e4ee93a3-9f96-411c-bc3b-6e6b0f436596

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