Things could be about to go from bad to worse on supermarket shelves as unseasonal rain wipes out more crops in Queensland.
Prices have already skyrocketed for fresh produce like lettuce and strawberries, and now other fruit and vegetables are set to follow suit.
There has been widespread rain across parts of the state in what the Bureau of Meteorology describes as abnormal conditions for this time of year.
One of Australia’s largest fruit and vegetable growers, Cross Family Farms, is recording major losses from beans to tomatoes in Bundaberg.
“A lot of our beans have all died because of the wet weather, so that’s probably our most impacted. Those and the snow peas,” said farmer Trevor Cross.
“Zucchini plants are in the ground, but they don’t like the rain. The harvest drags out a lot because it’s too cold for them to grow.
“You’ll see a lot of cracking in the tomatoes, as well as leaf disease.”
Mr Cross warned supply would be affected in the coming weeks and months, and prices will rise.
“In general, anything that’s out in the elements is going to have issues,” he said.
Prices to rise
The co-owner and manager of Start Fresh Fruit Market, April Elazzi, said wholesale prices were already going up and it was not clear how high they would reach.
“Zucchinis are going for about $80 per box at the markets at the moment. That’s over double [the price],” she said.
“Snow peas have probably hit about $40 a kilo. We’ve seen them more expensive in other places.”
It is strawberry harvesting time, but Bundaberg grower Michael Meiers said his farm had received 40 millimetres of rain in recent days.
“We’ve got a total loss of this week’s fruit basically,” he said.
“They just blister and absorb the water and just turn. Some of them down there are like slimy to touch.”
There is already a supply shortage in Queensland due to wet weather delaying the start of the harvest in May, and Mr Meiers expects this will worsen the situation.
“This rain has been so widespread … there’s not a strawberry farm that’s missed out,” he said.
He estimated his losses this season to “easily” reach $200,000 with his plants wiped out by rain and disease.
“We planted 120,000 plants this year … but now we’re down to like 40,000 out of that,” Mr Meiers said.
“We thought, ‘yeah, we’ve nailed it’. But in truth we nailed nails into a coffin, but we didn’t know that at the time.
“We will be able to recover some of these strawberries for jams and sauces, but there’s only a small percentage that’ll be good enough for that.”
‘Perfect storm’ for spoiled crops
Prolonged wet weather, followed by the recent cold snap and cloud cover, has created a “perfect storm” for spoiled crops further south.
David Freeman from Freeman’s Organic Farm in the Currumbin Valley, said he had already lost about 70 per cent of his custard apples and was now losing many of his avocado trees too.
“It’s damaged a lot of the vegetables like my leafy greens because they’re just so wet,” he said.
“But what I’m finding now is because of the saturation of the soil, lack of sunshine, and cold temperatures, we unfortunately have started to lose avocado trees through Phytophthora, a soil fungus.
“When you’ve had over 2,000mm of rain since the beginning of the year and only 42 days of sunshine it’s going to affect your crop.
“This will be the breaking point for some growers.”
He said the problems were industry wide.
“It’s not only me, it would be all the avocado growers in the hinterland, Tamborine, and (NSW) Northern Rivers,” he said.
In New South Wales, same thing! NSW Farmers Association President James Jackson says several farms have been inundated and their crops have been “wiped out” by the floods devastating NSW.
He said about $1 billion worth of produce comes out of the Sydney basin.
“There will be impacts on production out of those areas going forward for sure,” he told Sky News Australia. [abc.net.au]
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