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Just why is food in Australia so expensive?

Posted by: Tom Elliott | 17 January, 2013 - 3:15 PM
Expensive food: good if you're a Coles or Woolworths shareholer, not so great if you're a humble consumer.

A letter in The Age this morning expressed great surprise at just how cheap all sorts of goods were in France compared to here. According to the writer, stuff like food, medications & toothpaste retailed at just a fraction of the cost encountered in Coles and Woolworths.

In the case of food, this is particularly surprising. Australia is, after all, one of the world’s great farming nations, and a significant exporter of grains, fruit, vegetables and meat to the rest of the world.

To be fair, in comparison the places like Europe and the US, we have a low population and many great distances between our capital cities. But do these factors alone explain why it costs so much to eat?

Frankly, I can’t help but think some of the blame must be landed at the door of our supermarket duopoly - Coles and Woolworths. By way of comparison, shoppers in the UK have up to six supermarket chains from which to choose, and in North America the number is greater again. Choice in those places keeps prices down, whereas here the local duopoly appears to keep prices (and profits) up!

Good if you’re a shareholder, but no so great if you’re a humble consumer.

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Blog comments Your Say

  • The Australian public has always been very weak at standing up for their rights, hence the capitalists exploit them.

    Enoch Powell Monday 28 January, 2013 - 5:25 PM
  • Australian food is expensive for a multitude of reasons. Let me state just five:
    1. protection of local producers - compare to Europe and US where fresh produce is sourced from everywhere.
    2. The benefits of the high Australian dollar are not passed onto consumers so high prices are being paid for imports.
    3. High rental costs.
    4. High labour costs - US Walmart is paying $5-8 per hour to staff.
    5. The Australia food value chain from farm-gate to market is very long with many middle men each reaping profits.

    It isn't rocket science.

    Jake Saturday 26 January, 2013 - 3:51 PM
  • It is because we are too greedy here. It starts from the Banks moves through the utilities, politicians, local council and finally small business. Small business follows the lead, but no-one has a long term view. Unlike their overseas counterparts, Australians want to become millionaires overnight. There is no long term view and this is true of property, food, clothing the lot. Even Venice is Cheaper then Melbourne where an espresso and a Panini will set you back about 4 Euro.

    Lukew Friday 25 January, 2013 - 8:25 PM
  • Its the same reason dogs lick their privates....because they can.
    They being the duopoly and the rest follow.

    Paddy Friday 25 January, 2013 - 4:49 PM
  • From a great nation to a nation of ingrates in under 100 years. From a great nation to a desperate and essentially defunct nation in under 200 years. I am not aware of any other nation in history that has risen to such greatness and fallen to oblivion so quickly. America most certainly was a great nation at one stage. However it was not a great nation through war or force. America was once a great nation due to the honourable philosophies and laws that were put in place by the forefathers. This differentiated America from the rest of the world and the rule of other nations that had reigned supreme for millennia. Year after year generation after generation Americans have allowed their leaders to erode this greatness until none of it remains. Under the likes of Nixon Johnson Bush x2 H Clinton and Obama America has been transformed into the scourge of the world. The bane of our existence. Australia is the ONLY nation on earth that is completely subservient to America. Australia is currently the nation that is enduring the most hardship as a result of financial initiatives forced on us. Enemy or ally makes no difference. American government as it stands treats every citizen and every nation the same way. Rape destroy and pillage. To continue to follow America into the abyss would be beyond stupidity. It would be criminal.

    From Great to Ingrate Monday 21 January, 2013 - 1:29 PM
  • Our government does a deal annually with the Aluminium companies to dispose of fluoride. More volume more money. Yet this money NEVER reaches the books or the public. Only so much can be disposed of in the water. The government does a deal with the food suppliers and the waste product is added to hundreds of items including bread stock crisps and anything else that should contain salt. If anything is declared on the label it is limited to mineral salt which can be fluoride. The government conveniently turns a blind eye to inadequate contents labelling. This would not be practical if hundreds of independent brands were an available option. In exchange the government turns a blind eye to the insane duopoly that does not occur in any other free democracy. But now the government is compromised and cannot enforce legitimate control over price gouging and product limiting that borders on extortion. So the prices go up and up sometimes within a week as the brands go down and down. To further exploit the Australian public the best Australian meat and produce is sold by the suppliers on international markets and then they purchase inferior quality product from who knows where with who knows what protection and sell that to the Australian suckers. Of course bankers have controlling interests in the Aluminium companies and the politicians. However the overwhelming majority of bankers in Australia all the way up to national managers are subjected to the same abuse. Only the top end of the international bankers are ever really protected. For the life of me I cannot understand why the media and others remain quiet on this most egregious abuse. Could someone explain to me why this is not organised crime.

    Here is One Reason Saturday 19 January, 2013 - 3:27 PM

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