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Australia

Are you being sold a lemon? Why prices of the popular citrus have skyrocketed

A ‘perfect storm’ of conditions is resulting in the price of lemons surging to $2.50 each.  

Supermarket prices have skyrocketed to $13.80kg – just as party season gets underway – where the fruit is a must-have for seafood platters and celebratory drinks. 

The four-fold increase in prices is, according to the citrus industry, a result of multiple factors including a poor exchange rate, the global coronavirus pandemic and that it’s off-season for lemons. 

Shoppers could be dealing with shortage of lemons in the lead up to the holiday season (stock image)

Shoppers could be dealing with shortage of lemons in the lead up to the holiday season (stock image) 

Citrus Australia chair, Ben Cant, says a range of factors, all at the same time, have formed a perfect storm to drive up prices.

The bulk of Australia’s lemons are grown in winter, due to climate and growing conditions. So to make up the shortfall in other seasons, lemons are imported from the US and Egypt.

But Mr Cant said the exchange rate means the lemons landing here from the US are expensive before they turn up on supermarket shelves. And there have been quality issues with lemons from Egypt.

The impact of COVID-19 and the shutdown of restaurants and bars meant the Australian industry earlier this year worked pro-actively to export our lemons overseas, he added.

The online price for lemons on Saturday was $2.50 each from Coles (pictured)

The online price for lemons on Saturday was $2.50 each from Coles (pictured) 

‘It has been the perfect storm.

‘My message would be to anyone who is begrudging paying $2.50 per lemon … that the citrus industry is, by far and away, made up of small to medium enterprises who are usually family businesses.

‘Like a lot of businesses this year, it has been a rollercoaster both emotionally and financially. If you are paying a little bit extra for a lemon, it is going to a good place.’

Mr Cant said lemon prices went through the same price rise last year and the industry is working on cold storage trials of lemons grown during the optimum period so that more are available at this time of year.

This would reduce reliance on imports at a time when people want lemons for their gin and tonic and a slice for their fish and chips. 

Australia's lemons are grown in winter, due to climate and growing conditions. So to make up the shortfall in other seasons, lemons are imported from the US and Egypt (stock image)

Australia’s lemons are grown in winter, due to climate and growing conditions. So to make up the shortfall in other seasons, lemons are imported from the US and Egypt (stock image) 

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