Fed up with rising fresh produce prices, some Australians are turning to social media to source vegetables
There’s more to Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree than vintage furniture and ceramics – there’s also lettuce and other fresh produce.
As Australians watch helplessly, the prices of once-affordable staples soar.
Consumers have seen lettuces selling in stores for over $10.
With rising fruit and vegetable prices out of sight, some shoppers are turning to an unconventional source to bring fresh produce to the table: social media.
Buy online cheaper than supermarkets for some
Jason, 44, is from Brisbane and started selling fresh produce online in early 2021.
“While I was growing my own vegetables at home, I decided to sell some extras online to help others out a bit,” he said.
“Once you’ve found a decent seller on social media, it’s easy to stick with them and come back for more.”
However, among those who have recently started selling fresh produce online, there are business owners who have been selling produce there for years.
The price spike is just the tip of the “iceberg”
Jeremy, 41, from Brisbane, owns a business called Jezs Seedlings, which he advertises online.
While always a gardener, Jeremy lost his job in early 2020 when the pandemic hit, prompting him to turn his hobby into a full-time job.
Over the past two years, Jeremy’s business has grown, as has his customers’ reluctance to buy fresh produce from large supermarkets.
“The prices are crazy. They think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
“The customers I’ve dealt with will either go without fresh produce or come to me and buy a whole bunch of plants.”
Jeremy said other sellers on social media do not directly affect his business and there is “enough room for everyone”.
However, he said, they would mostly only be there temporarily.
“People selling these vegetables on social media come and go,” he said.
“You can buy something from a new seller on Marketplace once, but what happens when that person’s patch of lettuce runs out?
“They won’t have anything for months because they don’t have the right resources to keep production going all year round.”
Are we facing a lettuce black market?
Two people stand at the end of a dark alley. One of them slips the other a $10 bill. The other person slowly reveals a plastic bag under their hoodie. Inside is a lettuce.
That’s not what buying vegetables on social media looks like, in case you were wondering.
Buying and selling products from platforms such as Marketplace and Gumtree may be unconventional for some, but it’s no different from buying a stranger’s old sofa or dining table.
Rebecca Lindberg, of Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said it was something we should have expected.
“When fixed costs like gas, home loan repayments and utilities go up, we know the food budget is elastic and therefore that’s the area where people are trying to cut back,” said the Dr. Lindberg.
“That means looking for other informal outlets.
Dr Lindberg said the affordability of healthy food not only impacts what people can buy each week, but also how they can buy it.
“In times of financial and personal crisis, many people get by by bulking up their meals with cheap pasta and rice, using food charities, or even skipping meals so that children or other people can eat first.”
His research reveals that only 7% of adults and 5% of children eat enough vegetables.
“These healthy foods are so important to preventing the leading causes of premature death in Australia and, where possible, should remain affordable to the consumer and purchased at a fair price from the farmer,” said Dr Lindberg.
“Governments have an important role to play here.”