Monday, May 24, 2010

Hot prices

by Geoffrey Carrascalao Heard

Just before I left Australia, I dashed around in search of a couple of polo shirts. I wanted good quality cotton ones that would hold their shape, with a breast pocket (I need somewhere to put my 11 year old phone so I can entertain myself when I bend over by seeing it slide out and bounce on concrete).

Prices were in the $20-$50 range but there wasn’t a decent polo shirt to be had in my XXL size.

Pottering around a store in Port Moresby the other day I also failed to find a polo shirt I liked. I did notice, though, that the stock looked very similar to what I has been looking at in Australia. Both came from the same place, China.

I also noticed the pricing. The figures looked much like the Australian figures, 20-45, but the prices were in kina, the Papua New Guinea dollar, so they were K20-K45.

Now let me translate that into Australian dollars for you. The current rate of exchange is about K2.50 = $1.00, so K20 is the same as $8 and K45 is the same as $18.

If the Papua New Guinea prices can be taken as a guide to what the prices of these goods in Australia could be, then someone is making a killing between the Chinese factory and the Australian consumer.

Looks like Australian consumers are being ripped off, doesn’t it?

Let’s also look at products locally grown in both places.

The excellent rump steak I bought in a Port Moresby supermarket the other day was K25/kg, that’s $10/kg, a price you haven’t seen in Australia for a long time. The top Continental Hot Dogs were K11.55/kg, $4.62/kg.

Bear in mind that these are premium products. Also bear in mind that the rump steak is not from some old cow grazing in a Port Moresby backyard. It comes from distant parts of Papua New Guinea so there are serious costs involved, including transport, before it hits Port Moresby’s cool counters.

Why is meat so much more expensive in Australia? One reason is that it is feedlot -- fed on grain -- an inherently expensive process. It is also poked full of hormones and antibiotics (which ought to be banned) at great expense. The Papua New Guinea cattle are grass-fed, which is inherently cheaper if you have lots of grass. Who wants grain-fed beef anyway? I repeat -- this beef beats anything I have had in Australia for tenderness and flavour for as long as I can remember.

I was asking my local butcher about grass-fed beef just before I left Australia. He told me he simply couldn’t get it -- there was a demand for it but little of it about. As a result, it had become a premium item with the concomitant inflated price!

Australia, do you get the feeling that you are being ripped off -- again?


This material is copyright © Geoffrey Carrascalao Heard 2010.

Geoffrey Heard worked in media in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and 1970s and has just returned to that country as an Australian Volunteer supported by AusAID working with the Media Council of Papua New Guinea. The opinions and comments in this article are his own and do not represent the views of the Media Council of PNG, Australian Volunteers International, or AusAID.

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