Makaira, 4, Matthew and nine-months-pregnant Lewina Cole of Blackall unload shopping from the Cornett's IGA in Longreach.
Makaira, 4, Matthew and nine-months-pregnant Lewina Cole of Blackall unload shopping from the Cornett's IGA in Longreach.

Unsavoury truth about living in our regions

REGIONAL Queenslanders already slapped with high fuel prices, expensive electricity bills and the financial pressure of the drought are being slugged with staggering grocery bills.

An investigation by The Courier-Mail into grocery ­prices in the bush revealed regional consumers are paying a premium for food as a result of little to no access to stores.

Often forced to shop at small convenience stores because supermarkets are too far away, a can of baked beans can set people in remote communities back as much as $5.70, while a medium jar of coffee costs up to $19.90. In another shocking example of sky-high prices, a disgruntled consumer last week took to social media to share photos of a small can of tuna selling for more than $6.25 in a convenience store in Marlborough, 100km north of Rockhampton.

The same 95g can was priced by The Courier-Mail as low as $1.15 in Brisbane.

Patrice Brown, who lives an hour north of Marlborough at Clarke Creek has lived in regional areas her whole life, but said the last five years had been the worst for expensive grocery prices.

"Prices are 20 to 30 per cent higher than in city areas, even for the staple items. The price escalation is enormous for people who are really not in a position to pay it," she said. "People from more remote areas will come into town say once a month to do the shopping, so if you're not growing it out there then you're relying a lot more on the frozen foods and canned fruits and things like that.''

 

Makaira, 4, Matthew and nine-months-pregnant Lewina Cole of Blackall unload shopping from the Cornett's IGA in Longreach.
Makaira, 4, Matthew and nine-months-pregnant Lewina Cole of Blackall unload shopping from the Cornett's IGA in Longreach.

 

Ms Brown said people ­living in Longreach, 700km from the coast, were the hardest hit. Locals had access to only one store - or must plan an 800km trip to the nearest supermarket.

"For the people out (in Longreach) they would need a $500 airflight to get to town or they have to take a whole day driving to get to the stores … there's no arranged deliveries," she said.

Among those who have noticed the higher prices in regional areas are Matthew and Lewina Cole, of Blackall.

The Coles, who have a daughter Makaira, 4, are in Longreach so Lewina can give birth to their second child, due any minute. They say being dudded at the ­register is part of rural living. Louise Poole, of Longreach, said that she supported her local IGA, which was 140km away, as it was the only store the town had, apart from a fruit store. "You do pay a premium price for things like fruit and vegies, but that's because they have to travel so far for transport. I support local because otherwise we would have nothing else and they do a great job," she said. Dan Petrie of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that reports of expensive food were not uncommon and showed that the nation was failing as a whole, not just in remote communities.

"If you're paying $6 for a can of tuna, that's a problem," he said. "We're obviously ­failing as a wider country to address an increasing imbalance between the regions and the capital cities."

The Queensland Council of Social Service, which has conducted inquiries into grocery prices, said wages had not kept up with increases in costs of goods and services.

"We know that across Queensland households are doing it tough - often having to choose between putting food on the table and paying bills like rent or electricity," QCOSS acting chief executive Laura Barnes said.

"Expenses are only half of the equation. As low income collides with increased expenses, many Queensland households are financially vulnerable," she said.

 

UNSAVOURY TRUTHS

 

Packham Pears

Metro: $3.90 per kilo

Rural: $5.99 per kilo

 

Aeroplane Jelly Raspberry, 85g

Metro: $1.15

Rural: $2.15

 

Carrots, 1kg

Metro: $2.20

Rural: $3

 

Arnotts Salada Wholemeal 250g

Metro: $3

Rural: 3.40

 

Vienna Loaf Bread

Metro 450g: $2.50

Rural 420g: $3

 

Paul's Milk 2L

Metro: $3

Rural: $3.40

 

SOURCE: IGA in Longreach v. Coles and Woolworths



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