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Winter of discontent continues

Waitangi Park Market, Wellington, NZ

It’s official; this has been a bad winter and we are paying for it in unanticipated ways. Let me explain …

Yesterday Lynsey and I headed to the fruit and vege market. This is a weekly event where growers from the Horowhenua area come down with their trucks laden with fresh produce to sell directly to us city folk. There are two market sites located at opposite ends of the city: Victoria Street Market and Waitangi Park Market. These markets are extremely popular especially as the increase of inner city living has turned the centre of town into a suburb of itself.

We have friends who go every Sunday to buy their fruit and veges from one of these markets. My husband and I have never been that disciplined about this activity. We go along every now and again.

This morning we decided to head down and check out the produce because we have been so disappointed with the poor quality vegetables available to us in our supermarket. We felt sure we would get better produce if we bought direct from the growers.

As we walked around and around the stalls, in the rain, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy. Everything looked unappealing and damaged. The lettuces looked by far the worst of all the vegetables – they were tragic, even at the bargain basement prices they were being sold for of one dollar a lettuce head. You would have been lucky if you managed to get one or two decent, edible leaves from the shrivelled up ball that looked like it wanted to be a lettuce but hadn’t quite got there. This was so disappointing because as we drove to the market I kept imagining the beautiful salad we were going to have for dinner – only that was not to be. I kept wondering if things had changed and we were being duped. Where these growers now selling produce they couldn’t sell anywhere else? How could these vegetables look even worse than the ones available at the supermarket?

Then today a news headline drew my attention: Winter of discontent hits vege prices hard. As I read the article I discovered why I couldn’t buy a decent lettuce or anything else green for that matter.

Skyrocketing vegetable prices are about to climb even higher thanks to months of rain, hailstorms and frosts that have wreaked havoc on crops.

Shoppers are turning to frozen vegetables as one of the worst winters in two decades pushes prices up – and quality down – around the country.

And with more rain expected this week, industry experts are predicting a rise of 15 to 25 per cent, record prices in October and shortages till Christmas.

Alastair Turner, a senior trader at Fresh Direct – which supplies New Zealand supermarkets, retailers and wholesalers – said it had been one of the worst winters in his 20 years.

Crops, especially green leafy plants, had been hammered and vegetable growth in hot houses stunted by lack of sunlight, he said.

“People are paying the highest possible prices in retail stores but the quality probably is the worst.”

Grower John Clarke, who owns 161 hectares at Levin’s Woodhaven Gardens, said his 17 crop varieties had been destroyed. Lettuce and spinach were hit worst.

“Big gaps” in the market place were likely for six to eight weeks as rain stopped planting.

Fruit and vegetable prices rose 8.7 per cent in the year to June, with lettuce, potatoes and broccoli the biggest drivers.

Jenny Ling (Monday, 25 August 2008) Winter of discontent hits vege prices hard. The Dominion Post. Full article available at http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4667349a6479.html

Weather impacts in so many ways that we often don’t think about. Oh how I long for a crunchy green lettuce salad. It looks like I’ll be waiting a while and paying through the nose for it when the ingredients are available. Even more reason for us to get our own vege garden underway. However, even with our own garden the forces of nature will always win out despite our best interventions and this is something we simply have to accept. Sometimes you can’t change what is meant to be.

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