Crowd of people buying seafood.
Crowds have flocked to the Sydney Fish Market for the traditional Good Friday buy-up. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
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Crowds shell out for seafood as Easter egg prices crack

March 29, 2024

Shoppers have flocked to seafood markets as Australians spend big on Easter treats amid soaring chocolate prices.

Bright orange piles of prawns and whole fish have been on ice at the Sydney Fish Market since the doors opened at 5am as crowds flocked to Pyrmont to stock up on seafood.

The market expects to break previous records with more than 60,000 people expected on Friday, Sydney Fish Market seafood educator Mandy Hunt said.

Customers buying prawns.
 Prawns were high on the menu for customers at the Sydney Fish Market on Good Friday. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

“The peak visitation period is around lunchtime as everyone comes down to enjoy a feast with their family while shopping for their Easter seafood,” she said.

About 120 tonnes of prawns and 70,000 oysters are part of the 650 tonnes of seafood the market expects to shift over the long weekend.

Value-conscious shoppers were encouraged to swap traditional flathead and snapper for gurnard or whiting, while rainbow trout can be swapped in for salmon.

A man buying fish.
 Sydney Fish Market customers were being encouraged to pick cheaper fish this year to save money. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

“With the rising cost of living, we have seen our customers branch out and try lesser known, more affordable species to combat the pressure while still enjoying delicious Australian seafood,” Ms Hunt said.

In addition to Easter shopping, some Australians emphasised the Christian significance of the holiday.

Worshippers from Wesley Mission re-enacted the steps of Jesus Christ, played by Epeli Rokowaqa, in a street theatre performance as part of Good Friday Easter celebrations at Martin Place in Sydney. 

The spectacle was watched on by dozens of onlookers and other actors who took part.

A re-enactment in Sydney of the steps of Jesus Christ.
 Wesley Mission actors re-enacted the steps of Jesus Christ in Sydney’s Martin Place on Good Friday. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Meanwhile, agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank warned Australia’s retail chocolate prices are up 8.8 per cent amid a third season of a global cocoa deficit.

A reduction in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where 60 per cent of the world’s supply is grown, was one contributor, but Rabobank analyst Pia Piggott said there was no sole cause for the deficit. 

“It is a combination of a range of agricultural and other factors, including adverse weather conditions, ageing trees and disease in crops.”

Key cocoa-producing countries have also been hit by damaging El Nino-driven weather conditions over the past two years. 

Global cocoa prices are nearly three times higher than Easter 2022, according to analysis from trading and investing platform eToro. 

Its research shows the price of snacks and confectionary items is also up by almost seven per cent in Australia over the past year.

A survey by comparison site Finder found the average Australian plans to spend $1185 on chocolate, food, eating out and travel during Easter, totalling about $4.4 billion.

Shoppers are chasing value, Finder money expert Angus Kidman said.

“Easter is exacerbating cost-of-living pressures, prompting some to rethink how they mark the occasion,” he said.

In Queensland, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace urged shoppers to respect retail workers.

“Let’s treat them with the kindness that they deserve, particularly when they’re working and giving up that valuable time from family and friends,” she said.

Sydney charity The Reverend Bill Crews Foundation is planning a free Easter Sunday lunch at its Ashfield base for people experiencing cost-of-living pressures.

Inflation has been moderating from its late 2022 peak, but even with an aggressive round of interest rate hikes aimed at softening economic activity, it remains above the Reserve Bank of Australia’s two to three per cent target.