Heatwave wreaks havoc with fruit and veg

Posted by Isobel Drake on 4th February 2009

The damage bill for fruit and vegetable growers in Victoria is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, after a heatwave crippled the state last week.

President of the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Horticulture Group, Peter Cochrane, has advised that supply will be impacted in coming weeks.

organic food basket

“A lot of the salad (phonetic) lines, and leafy vegetable lines have been affected quite badly, and a number of the berries,” he told ABC radio this morning. “A blueberry guy I was talking to, he had his late varieties and normally he goes really well out of them, like financially. Lost the lot, won’t pick one berry, he said, just totally cooked. Late varieties of apricot, they just stewed on the tree, they won’t get an apricot, and they’ve had total losses.”

Mr Cochrane noted that the recent weather conditions could ruin some in the industry. “I hope (it won’t),” he said. “With the vegetable growers, we’re sort of used to losing our crops on a regular basis, but some of the farmers with permanent planting and who only have a very small window each year to make their money, heaven help them.”

Mr Cochrane added that a drop in the quality of some Victorian produce sold Australia-wide was likely, but hopes that consumers will support farmers by being “less picky”.
“(Consumers) should notice it on the store shelves, unfortunately right now, because a lot of the product we grow, it’s been burnt, the leaves have been burnt, they’ve gone yellow, some of them as though they’ve been freeze dried. They’re just crumbling up they’ve been damaged so badly,” he reported. “If the supply shortens, in theory the prices may go up, but because the quality’s not there, the consumer may not pay; want to pay for the inferior quality, so prices just may not go up. But all we’re asking for is that the consumers support the farmers now and into the future when the new product comes on line, and be a little less picky.”