No one likes a soggy lettuce, especially if that lettuce is going to run you $15. While we’re all putting up with higher costs at the supermarket and cabbage in our Zinger burgers, the people actually growing the food we all depend upon are having an absolute mare.
Recent floods across NSW and the drenching we’ve all copped have not improved the situation either. Food shortages and inflated prices on shelves were already hitting consumers and the latest downpour is thought to have wiped out around $1 billion worth of fresh produce from the Sydney basin. The region has more than 480 agricultural businesses, many of which have been affected.
NSW Farmers Association President James Jackson has said that multiple farms in the region have been “inundated” while entire crops have been “wiped out.”
He told Sky News that “There will be impacts on production out of those areas going forward for sure.”
The unprecedented rain has affected those growing leafy vegetables in the Hawskbury-Nepean region while areas west of Cowra have become too wet to plant their usual crops of wheat and canola. It’s a double whammy for those in the industry as, ironically, they’d been banking on some rain to improve the situation after the droughts of 2017-2019.
On the last four days, the Sydney region has received more rainfall than London gets in an entire year. It’s far beyond any previous rainfall records throughout history and the blame can be laid squarely at the foot of the La Nina weather pattern, the effects of which have been wildly exacerbated by climate change.
The knock-on effects are going to hit shoppers who buy the fresh veg and produce we grow in Aus hard and fast.
Jackson has said that he would be “surprised” if food prices didn’t start to rise in response to the flooding and crop losses.
“The cooler, wet weather will also delay the maturity of crops in the Lockyer Valley and up into Queensland. I suspect there’ll be supply pinches with a lot of leafy vegetables right into spring,” he said.
However, supermarket chains like Coles and Aldi have said that it’s too early and too difficult to assess the impact that the rains will have on produce prices at this stage. Supermarkets have however been criticised by producers who accuse them of profiting from the inflated prices.
NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle told Today Extra that farmers are not being fairly compensated for their produce despite prices remaining high at the checkout.
“We are hearing from members that one week they’re getting $6 for their cucumbers, the next week they’re getting $3, and the price at the major retailers is staying the same,” he said. “We’ve seen the major retailers are taking a fair share of this $12 lettuce price – a lot of that value is not going to farmers.”
Coles has rejected the claims, but Arkle has called on the Treasurer and the Australian Competition Consumer Commission to investigate.
Jackson has lamented the experience of those out in the fields, saying they’re being hit by a perfect storm with fronts on all sides.
“Horticulture is in a perfect storm, with international supply chain pressures, labour shortfalls … nobody plants crops unless there’s someone there to harvest them. It’s terribly difficult,” he said.
Arkle has said that the damage right across the state will mean consumers will see a shortage or a price rise in winter vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, bok choy, and kale.
“Floodwaters will simply have washed these crops away,” he said.