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Sydney 9 May 2013. The onset of winter in all states is having an effect on fresh food prices - here's what to expect this week.

Blueberries and Raspberries

Blueberries and Raspberries are in another galaxy when it comes to price.

The transition from the Tasmanian and Victorian growing regions to the Coffs Harbour and Queensland growing regions means there is a definite shortage of fruit across all markets nationally. Put this together with the onset of cold weather and the strain on supply is magnified two fold. As a result retail price has rocketed.

Over the weekend be prepared for blueberries and raspberries to surge in price by as much as 40% in comparison to a just three weeks ago. The good news is that the retail price will be at its peak and as Coffs Harbour and Queensland start to harvest more fruit, the price will begin to drop. I expect that blueberry and raspberry prices will start to ease towards the end of next week.

Cabbage

The cabbage market is still on the move.

The quality of cabbages in general at this time of year is first class. As predicted last week, cabbage moved up in price by around 20%, depending upon size. Over this weekend and next week expect the cabbage retail price to sit where it is. Strong demand is definitely the catalyst for maintaining the current cabbage price. The colder weather across the country has affected every state’s regional growing area, which in-turn has slowed the growth rate of cabbages. Less volume across the country coupled with the increased consumer demand due to the cooler weather means the high cabbage price is going to hold.

Cabbages should feel slightly heavy for their size. Savoy cabbage should have crinkly, crisp green leaves.  Green and red cabbages should have shiny, compact leaves.

In many dishes, such as salads, soups and casseroles, cabbage is prepared by cutting it into quarters and removing the hard core in the centre. The leaves are then chopped or finely shredded. Overcooking cabbage can intensify its strong odour -- instead, lightly sauté, boil or stir-fry it to achieve best results. Cabbage goes well with lots of things. Here’s a start: apples, chicken, beef, blue cheese, bacon, caraway seeds, coriander, duck, feta, garlic, ham, mustard, olive oil, parmesan, pork and walnuts.

Leeks

Now is the prime-time for leeks.

Leeks from South Australia and Victoria are coming into their peek for quality and quantity. Leeks have been holding steady as far as price is concerned for the past three weeks. Their current price point will remain unchanged over the next seven days. You will find them very good buying over the next month at least. Actually, be on the lookout at your local fresh food retailer as it may have leeks on special.

Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fibre. Look for leeks with crisp green tops. Cut and dispose of the dark green top of the leek. Cut lengthways and wash the remaining part of the leek, rinsing away any dirt. Only the thick white stem and the palest green part of the leek are edible. After the leek has been thoroughly washed cut crossways. Leeks can be added to casseroles and soups or sauté until caramelised.

Cauliflower

Over the last three weeks cauliflowers have increased in price by as much as 60%. This is due to the onset of the cold weather causing a slowdown in supply and the increased consumer demand. Cauliflower retail price has been at an absolute premium, with retailers shoring up stock for their stores. Over the weekend watch cauliflowers closely, as I expect they will start to ease in price by around 15%, depending upon size and quality. This is due to the slower consumer demand because of the sustained high retail price.

Select cauliflower with a clean, white head and compact flower clusters. The leaves should be solid and the stalks should have a fresh appearance. Cauliflower can be either boiled or steamed, and often served with a cheese sauce. It can also be cut into small raw florets and served with any dip, or added to a salad or stir-fry. Cream of cauliflower soup is delicious and easy to prepare.

Beans

Victoria has been our main source for beans over the summer period however we are now in a transitional period.

As predicted, the price of beans has fallen by 20% over the past fortnight. This trend is set to continue with beans easing again in price over the next seven days by around 15%, depending upon quality. The reason being Queensland is now starting its build towards bean production for the winter.

Queensland will be our source for beans throughout the winter period however it’s still a good fortnight away from full-scale bean production. Once Queensland begins expect the price of beans to ease considerably.

Good beans snap crisply. Choose young, firm, straight pods with bright colour. Use beans whole as crudités for any dip. Slice beans to use in salads and stir-fries or steam and serve with sauces or nuts. Beans bring nutritional variety to any meal.

Pink Lady Apples

Pink Lady apples are continuing to ease when it comes to price.

As we are now starting to get into the thick of the apple season, Pink Lady apples will continue to ease in price. Last week, as predicted, their price fell by 15% in comparison to the week before. Over the coming weekend and heading into next week Pink Lady apples will ease in price by a further 10%, depending on quality. Larger volumes arriving on market floors nationally over the coming months will bring the market price of Pink Lady apples, and all apples for that matter, to a level that we can all be happy with.

Pink Lady apples have a beautiful light pink colour with a firm smooth skin. They are very refreshing and sweet and should be crisp to the bite.

Strawberries

Over the last four weeks strawberries have been explosive as far as price is concerned. The cold weather rolling in across Victoria has slowed the growth rate of strawberries to an absolute stand still. Extremely low volumes on market floors across the country over the past month have resulted in the price going through the roof. However, the tide is definitely changing.

The Victorian growing season for strawberries is in its final weeks and Queensland strawberries are nowhere near ready, due to the late plantings as a result of the sustained torrential rains Queensland received a few months ago. However, the strawberry market is on the way back. The high prices of the past month can no longer be sustained and you can expect the strawberry market to ease by as much as 15% depending upon quality, as we head into the weekend and next week. Low consumer demand as a result of the recent high price will force the price of strawberries down.

Take note. Quality will be a definite concern, which is why good quality fruit will still hold last week’s price. So be extremely selective when purchasing strawberries and always ask your local fresh food retailer if you have any questions.

Imperial Mandarins

Price is back with a thump.

I stated in this report three weeks ago that there would be greater volumes of mandarins on all market floors nationally within a few weeks. Well I can tell you, they are arriving in numbers. Be ready, the mandarin price will ease this weekend and next week by a further 15%, depending upon quality. This predicted 15% decrease is on top of last week’s price downturn of 20%. Greater volumes on market floors are pushing the price down. Mandarin specials will definitely be around so be sure to check-in with your local fresh food retailer.

Imperial mandarin quality will only improve as the weeks go by, so be patient as sweet juicy mandarins are right around the corner.

Broccoli

Last week broccoli market was back with a BANG. A slow turnaround is expected in the next seven days.

As predicted, broccoli price dropped by around 40% over the past month, due to no shortage of supplies. Hence stock needed to be sold. Now, due to the very cold weather coming in over the last few days, broccoli volumes will start to slow down. However, in saying that, consumer demand is not breaking any records. Over the coming weekend broccoli will move up in price by around 15% depending upon quality, in comparison to last week.

Steamed, used in a stir fry, with a dip or raw, broccoli is versatile, easy and nutritious. To ensure peak flavour and nutrition, simply cook broccoli lightly. Dip broccoli sprigs into boiling water for approximately thirty seconds to enhance their rich green colour and then cool before serving.

Sweet Potato

Bundaberg has been back on track with sweet potato production for the past month, with crops flourishing and increased yields. Larger quantities had been arriving on market floors in all states and as predicted over a month ago, price came down by 30%. This current market position has not changed.

Sweet potato is still shaping up as a really good buy over this weekend and next week. Its current price point means it’s a great time to dive in and start buying. Again, keep your eyes peeled for sweet potato specials.

Choose clean, smooth, solid, well-shaped sweet potatoes. Wash then peel if desired. Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed or fried to make chips. Sweet potatoes add flavour, colour and healthy goodness to most meals. Raw sweet potato can be grated into salads, coleslaw or sandwich fillings.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, complex carbohydrate, folic acid, vitamin E, potassium and dietary fibre, when consumed with the skin on. Red sweet potato also contain calcium, iron and phosphorus

Bananas

Demand for bananas increased in line with children returning to school last week! Volumes on shop floors have more than satisfied this. As stated in last week’s report, banana prices fell by 5%. Over the weekend I expect bananas to come back again in price by a further 5%, depending upon quality.

Nutritious and convenient you can’t go wrong with bananas.

Lettuce

The lettuce market is definitely on the skids!

The Victorian lettuce production has been very consistent over the past two months. This week will see Victoria start to wind down with lettuce production, while Queensland will start to pick up.

Lettuce price has fallen by 30% over the last fortnight on the back of big volumes and weakening demand. Look forward to lettuce price sliding by a further 20% as we head into the weekend. As mentioned, this price decrease will be on the back of increased supplies out of Queensland. As Queensland begins to gear up for the winter lettuce season and Victorian lettuce supplies continue to overlap, lettuce will remain a great buy.

The traditional Aussie salad is going to be fantastic value over the weekend and next week; while all varieties of lettuce are of excellent quality. Enjoy!

Tomatoes and Roma Tomatoes

Victoria has been our major supplier of tomatoes nationally since last December and their season is completely finished. There has been a shortage of tomatoes while we have been changing from the Victorian growing region to the Queensland growing region, with South Australia attempting to fill the void. This has resulted in high retail prices over the past few weeks.

Bundaberg, Queensland is now starting to arrive with tomatoes as of this week. Increased tomato volumes from Bundaberg, coupled with slow consumer demand due to the recent high retail price, means tomatoes will come back in price over the weekend and next week by as much as 20%, depending upon quality.

Roma tomatoes have been in very short supply over the past fortnight, increasing in price by around 35%. This high price point for Roma tomatoes will remain unchanged over the weekend and early next week.

William Pears

William pears are definitely on their last legs.

Coming out of Victoria, the ideal growing conditions over the past six months has made for a bumper crop. Having been on market floors since late January, William pears are in their final days. William pears are now being replaced with Packham pears, so be sure to get to your local fresh food retailer and enjoy the last of the Williams.

As predicted, William pears came back in price by 20% at the start of March and their price point has not changed since, until now. Be on the lookout as the last of the William pears will be on store shelves. Retail price will be back by around 20% depending upon quality. Your local fresh food retailer may even have them on special to round off their season.

Select pears that are reasonably firm with a rich, full colour and do not appear wrinkled or misshapen. When the fruit is fully ripe it's sweet and juicy. Be sure to handle pears gently at all times, as they can bruise easily which accelerates the process of over-ripening.

Corn

The corn market is going from strength to strength!

As predicted, the corn market has kicked by as much as 35% over the last month. Be prepared for the corn retail price to kick again by as much as 10% over the weekend and heading into next week, on the back of stronger demand. The cooler weather and a change to autumn / winter recipes have increased the demand for sweet corn.

Corn supplies nationally are on the decline, due to slow growing as a result of the much cooler weather. Supply is mainly coming from each state's regional areas. Select sweet corn with a fresh husk. Kernels should be plump, shiny and in straight lines. Cook by boiling, steaming, microwaving or barbecuing.


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