1803 Colonial food prices

Food prices were reported in the Sydney Gazette, Australia's first newspaper

From March 1803, the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser reported prices for goods landed at Sydney Wharf from the farms at Kissing Point. Colonial food prices for 5 March, reported a week later, included peaches sold from threepence to sixpence per dozen and melons from four to five shillings a dozen. You could buy 100 pounds of potatoes for ten shillings, while full-grown fowls were three shillings each.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser was Australia’s first newspaper, sanctioned and reviewed by the government. It was printed on a wooden press bought out with the First Fleet and edited and published by George Howe. Howe was a convict who had previously worked on the London Times.

The Gazette reported on shipping news, court cases, government proceedings and general news. It also carried advertisements, including those offering goods for sale from arriving ships. The prices for goods landed at Sydney Wharf from Kissing Point were often noted as part of the shipping news.

The report on 12 March 1803 recorded that:

On Saturday Morning last, 5 boats came in from Kissing Point with fruit, vegetables, potatoes, poultry, &c. .Peaches sold from 3d. to 6d. per dozen, melons from 4s. to 5s. per doz., plants 6d. per hundred, potatoes from 10s. to 12s. 6d. per 100lbs. Full grown fowls 3s. each, half grown do. [abbreviation for ditto] 1s. 6. each.

By the end of the year, a great deal more produce was arriving, including pigs, poultry and eggs. The report on prices for Sunday 18 December read:

SYDNEY WHARF.—Yesterday came in the usual compliment [sic] of Boats from Kissing  Point, but with an unusual supply of every marketable commodity generally comprehended in their Bill of Fare,— Vegetables of all kinds were very plentiful, but some sorts rather dear; potatoes down at 6s. per 100 lbs; Pigs very cheap, roasters from 5s. to 7s. 6d.; large Geese 8s. each; English ducks 9s. to 11s. per pair; full-grown Fowls 3s. half-grown ditto. 2s. and Eggs 18d. to 2s. per dozen.

Colonial food prices were greatly influenced by the weather conditions, which determined the success of the harvests and the prosperity of farmers.

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