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Time for a shift in focus to improve food affordability for remote customers

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People living in remote communities in Australia pay the highest average prices in the nation for food, and this affects their access to healthy food and drink. Affordability continues to decline, with an increasing gap in food prices between remote stores and urban supermarkets,1 probably associated with deals between supermarkets and manufacturers.

The price differences between remote stores and urban supermarkets are published annually for a small range of products in the Northern Territory, and less frequently in some other states. We recently published information on the price differences for a larger range of foods commonly purchased in remote NT communities, and found that the greatest proportion of food spending is for packaged groceries.2 Packaged, fresh, healthier and less healthy categories of foods were all more expensive in remote stores than in urban supermarkets. Packaged products as a category were considerably more expensive; the price difference (67%) was almost twice that for fresh products (36%). The differences for packaged groceries were lower if prices were compared with non-discounted prices in urban supermarkets, indicating the role that promotional pricing plays in driving food prices.2 Further analysis using our original methods and based on a modified star rating system3 found that the average…