Floods in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania likely to increase fruit, vegetable, meat costs

Australians could face rising grocery bills, as floods and surging rains hamper some of the nation’s key areas for food production.

Dairy farmers, and growers across prime agricultural areas in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania have been severely impacted by the devastating rains.

Known as Australia’s Food Bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin produces $22 billion of food a year, and is home to 40 per cent of Australia’s farms. The area also accounts for around three-quarters of Australia’s citrus, stone fruit and apple and pear production.

Farmers have also been forced to dump millions of litres of milk after farms were left isolated by rising floodwaters and unable to be transported.

One dairy farmer from Rochester, Victoria, said he believed he was one of many who had resorted to dumping milk.

“We won’t be the only farmers in the region that are tipping milk – we’re in the lap of the gods,” he told the ABC.

Visiting the NSW’s central west region of Forbes, which has been hit by floods for the fifth time since 2010, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was “no doubt” the weather event would impact product costs.

“Tragically there had been such a good harvest anticipated in wheat, fruit and vegetables, so many products … areas like poultry will be affected as well,” he said.

“We have to work with farmers and the sector, they have done it tough in recent years and we’re very hopeful but there’s no doubt there will be an impact on this and the impact will feed into higher prices, most unfortunately at a time when inflation has already been rising.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who is set to deliver Labor’s first budget on October 25, also warned of higher bills at the supermarket checkout.

“Obviously, when you’re talking about absolutely prime agricultural land, making some of the biggest contributions to our grocery aisles, there will be an impact and it will be a substantial impact, I fear,” said Mr Chalmers on Monday.

“I think Australians do need to brace for a cost-of-living impact from these floods. These are likely to push up the cost of living when Australians are already under the pump.”

Speaking to The Australian, Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said prices for fruit and vegetables could see an immediate increase in costs due to “serious logistical issues”.

Price hikes on other products like milk could see a longer lead time due to the supply chain.

Earlier this year, devastating floods in key food production areas in NSW and Queensland saw prices for fresh produce spike.

Notably, prices for iceberg lettuce rose to $12 a head, with costs for leafy green vegetables and brassicas like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli also increasing.

As it stands, a “concerning” low pressure system could see renewed flooding fears for the inundated region later this week, with widespread falls from 25mm to 50mm. This comes as the Murray-Darling region will likely break their October rain records of 101mm, having already exceeded its monthly average rainfall of 43mm.

Sky News meteorologist Alison Osborne described it as a “relentless spring” of rain, with two rainbands forecasted to move eastwards from Central Australia and South Australia to NSW and Victoria.

“Two powerful weather systems will be moving across the country in what is shaping up to be a relentless spring,” she said.

“Flooding rain once again falling over areas where it is absolutely not needed.”

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