Floods force up prices

Sarah QuintonThe West Australian

The prices of some fruit and vegetables are expected to almost double at local supermarkets this week after floods in NSW destroyed $500 million worth of crops.

Rising floodwaters in western NSW forced livestock farmers to move their animals to higher ground, while hundreds of fresh fruit and vegetable growers lost their entire crops, prompting Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to declare the region a natural disaster zone.

The devastation will mean WA growers could start trucking food across the Nullarbor as soon as today as Eastern States agents work to fill their orders.

Perth City Markets price consultant Norm Carroll expected truckloads of produce to head east, pushing up prices in WA.

“Leaf lines are very cheap at the moment, lettuce is only $6-$8 a crate, cabbage is $4-$6 a crate and they will virtually double in price within a week, ” he said.

He said the high prices could last another two months as growers waited for the floodwaters to subside to replant their crops.

Sydney vegetable wholesaler Charlie Musumeci, from Freshpoint Markets in Maroubra, said 90 per cent of the growers he bought from had been wiped out.

“Anything that grows off the ground like lettuce, that will be disastrous — salad mix, celery will be very much affected, baby spinach, rocket — all this stuff will be really bad, ” he said.

“Even tomatoes, the quality won’t be there because they are all rain affected.”

IGA chairman John Cummings said leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach were soaking up too much water, shortening their shelf life.

“The produce over there is going rotten on the shelves because of the excess water they’re taking on, ” he said. “We won’t get what we traditionally get from over there and what we are growing over here will be demanded to send over there at higher prices.”

He said tomatoes were retailing at $4-$5/kg but if demand from the Eastern States prompted a shortage, the price could rise to $10/kg.

“If you’re a big tomato grower in WA, you can expect to get twice what you were getting last week in a Perth market.”

“We will have to pay a higher dollar to get local growers to send their produce to us, ” he said.

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