Australian food rescue organisation OzHarvest said demand for its services in Canberra had increased by 30 per cent in the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was now bracing itself for another storm ahead.
“I would have no hesitation to say [demand for services] will be another 10 to 15 per cent over the next two to three months,” Canberra city manager Belinda Barnier said.
“The whole supply chain is stressed.”
Ms Barnier said for those already living week-to-week, dealing with underemployment or loss of work thanks to COVID, the increase in petrol prices acted as a “tipping point”.
“It has hit them in the hip pocket seriously,” she said.
“It directly impacts people’s ability to live.”
‘Something has to give’
OzHarvest has two trucks in Canberra that spend most of their time on the road, delivering food to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it.
Ms Barnier says she is now worried that some vulnerable community members will decide to go without essential groceries in order to keep their fuel tanks full.
“It is an absolute tipping point – people already have mortgage stress, employment issues, childcare issues and food is a staple,” she said.
She also said increased petrol prices acted as a double blow for the charity, which is expecting to see an increase in demand while their costs to transport and deliver goods increases as well.
“We really are in a fragile space, so it means we have to collect more food and deliver more food but it is not sustainable,” she said.
Though Ms Barnier said for now a major sponsor was paying for fuel and ensuring the charities trucks could stay on the road.
Small businesses feeling the added cost
Joe Seckerson works for a small business that buys and sells building materials across Canberra and the surrounding regions.
As a result, he spends a lot of time on the road.
“We are doing up to 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres a week picking up various materials from various sites around Canberra and the surrounds,” the Handyman’s Trading Post manager said.
Mr Seckerson said not only did the cost increase impact businesses, it could have flow-on effects for customers.
“We are starting to think less about travelling interstate,” he said.
No relief in sight
Motoring organisation NRMA said the price hike was mainly due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the unwillingness of some oil producers to increase production levels amid global demand.
Mr Khoury said it also seemed there was no relief in sight for customers.
“This doesn’t look like it is going to alleviate anytime soon,” he said.