“There’s some Australian lemons around, but it isn’t enough to meet demand so we import from the US and a limited amount from Spain. The exchange rate in the US is making it more expensive than the normal Australian fruit,” Mr Cant said.
“The light supply also coincides with higher demand … because [there is] more use for them in recipes and drinks and alcohol at this time of year.
“The few Australian growers that have fruit at the moment, they’ll be getting good money but they wont have a lot of lemons.”
Mr Cant said prices would come down in March when more Australian lemons were ready to be picked.
“As soon as Australian fruit is available we ask consumers to help us out and get back on board. We can’t beat Mother Nature,” he said.
Supermarkets Woolworths, Coles and Aldi acknowledged prices were higher, because of their reliance on lemons from overseas.
An Aldi spokesperson said weather conditions, including frost, had also affected this season’s local harvest and created a “greater reliance on internationally sourced lemons”.
“We are working hard to ensure lemon prices remain affordable for customers and we expect prices to decrease once local production returns to normal,” she said.
A spokesperson from Coles also said external conditions had affected this year’s lemon harvest.
“Seasonal growing patterns have led to an industry-wide shortage of lemons across Australia, impacting prices as a result,” she said.
“As per our Australian First Sourcing Policy, we are working with Aussie farmers to take their lemons first and are supplementing supply with imported US lemons to continue to meet customer demand.”
Coles vowed mid-last year to stop stocking imported lemons, as part of its “Australian First” policy.
Queensland growers generally see a more lemons in late January to early February, the spokeswoman said, which should improve supply.
A Woolworths spokeswoman said the supermarket stocks Australian lemons wherever possible and “only turn to US lemons for a few months of the year when local product is limited to help fulfil customer demand”.
“From early February customers should expect to see the arrival of the new season of lemons from north Queensland in our stores,” she said.
It’s understood the Queensland lemon season is approximately two weeks later than normal due to weather conditions.
Smaller stores have also noticed the price hike, with Coastal Providores – a fruit and vegetable wholesaler on the NSW’s Central Coast – posting on social media on Wednesday to alert customers.
“With Australian lemons being a winter fruit we normally rely on imported ones from USA and Egypt to circulate this time of year … but with very limited amounts coming in it has really forced lemon prices up,” the Facebook post read.
“Prices are easily 3 times as much as what they would be normally!! Limes are by far better value as the lime market has fallen drastically.”
Lemons are most readily available between June and August.
Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.