Aussies countrywide were gasping in shock last week at the discovery that the once delicious chicken burger was boasting a new, crunchier, slightly bitter tasting condiment – cabbage!
The soaring cost of lettuce has become the epitome of the cost-of-living crisis. And while the once humble head of lettuce featured heavily during the election campaign, particularly as a weapon Labor propelled at the Liberal party while accusing it of being out of touch on the cost-of-living crisis, one particular event pushed our lettuce shortage into global news.
And no, KFC is not the propagator, Mr Albanese is.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s what happened.
Last week, the global fast-food chain indiscreetly threw some crunchy, slightly bitter cabbage into its depleting lettuce reserves and while many Aussies were left gasping, some in shock and some in repulsion, as they took a bite of their once favourite Zinger burger, it was none other than our Prime Minister who propelled our lettuce shortage into global headlines. All it took is the utter of two words on a morning radio show and Australia’s newly coined “cabbage-gate” made the global news rounds in a matter of minutes.
The toilet paper hoarders became the crazy lettuce people by Friday morning.
And while Mr Albanese might have been joking, his admission that he would huddle with his top officials to discuss KFC’s decision to replace the lush leaf with a cabbage mix has been mocked globally.
But what lies behind “cabbage-gate” is a much more sinister truth than first meets the eye.
Food inflation is a major challenge, globally.
“Cabbage-gate is a bit rough on the old cabbage, but it’s a wider metaphor for price surges and shortages forcing us to settle for things that may not be the same or as good as we have become used to,” AMP’s Shane Oliver told InvestorDaily.
And while the good news is that with better weather the lettuce will come back fairly quickly, much like bananas did after Cyclone Yasi 11 years ago, the bad news, according to Dr Oliver, is that “many of the other things facing shortages or surging prices will take longer to fix”.
Price increases across a broad array of products
A new paper issued last week by Moody’s has highlighted just how geopolitical forces are coming to bear on global food security, and while Australia’s lettuce shortage is mostly linked to this year’s terror floods (global fuel prices deserve some blame too), we’re not immune to geopolitical issues or to future climate disaster for that matter.
“Whether it is palm oil from Indonesia, wheat and sugar from India, or chicken from Malaysia, major food producers are tightening export policies to tame inflation and shore up domestic supplies,” Moody’s economist Gabriel Tay explained in a market outlook issued on Thursday.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could hardly have come at a worse time for global food logistics given the pandemic still has supply chains clogged up,” he added.
In the short term, Mr Tay noted, protectionist trade policies are likely to result in price increases across a broad array of food products, not just of the specific product but also its substitutes – read cabbage.
Beyond the turmoil in Ukraine, which he said would lead to a more “significant” food shortage in 2023, Mr Tay cautioned that climate change too is a key risk for global food security because more extreme weather will weigh on fresh produce supplies – read lettuce.
And no, the answer to global upheaval and rising inflation is not hoarding!
With Labor’s budget due “on or around” 25 October, the path out of this crisis won’t be short, so my advice is - get friendly with cabbage.
Maja's career in journalism spans well over a decade across finance, business and politics. Now an experienced editor and reporter across all elements of the financial services sector, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies.
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