10 May 2023

Remote store operator feeling the pinch of freight costs

| Matt Nicholls
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CEQ is using Hevilift to send groceries to several remote stores each week in the wet.

THE biggest supermarket operator in remote Queensland says this year’s wet season will cost more than $1 million than forecast as freight costs soar through the roof.

Michael Dykes, the CEO of not-for-profit organisation Community Enterprise Queensland, said unless there was a measure in place to help cover the cost of freight, costs would have to be passed on to the customers.

“In principle, we’re very supportive of a freight subsidythat makes the daily shop for local people more affordable,” he said.

“Something that targets healthy options and fresh produce would be welcomed by us, for sure.”

CEQ has ABIS and IBIS stores across Cape York, Torres Strait and the Gulf.

Mr Dykes said while Sea Swift carried goods to most stores, some like Doomadgee, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw relied on air freight in the wet season.

“We’ve got a $1 million bill on our hands from air freight alone,” he said.

“And it’s not because we aren’t prepared. Before the wet we make sure our stores are well stocked.

“But this wet season the roads have been cut off for longer in some communities and the stock has been used at an alarming rate.”

Passing on the costs has so far been largely avoided.

“Our board have been very solid in the direction they want, which is to hold as many of the prices as we can,” the CEO said.

“That has also cost us $700,000 this financial year to date.”

Mr Dykes said he encouraged those living in remote areas to be responsible when shopping.

“We do our very best to keep healthy and essential items affordable,” he said.

“Items like tobacco are really expensive and it’s important that families make the right choices.”

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