Price hike looms for vegetables: growers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th August 2018

SHOPPERS are being warned the price of vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower could soar next year if the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, does not get a decent downpour this summer.

The region, dubbed “Australia’s salad bowl”, grows the most diverse commercial range of vegetables and fruit in the country with more than $370 million worth of produce sold each year.

The Lockyer Valley was drought declared in May and the region has not had decent rain since the 2013 Queensland floods.

President of the Lockyer Valley Growers Association, Michael Sippel, told ABC growers have enough underground water to get them through until next year, but if dry conditions persist throughout summer, vegetable production will be cut next winter.

“We’ll still see crops planted next winter but farmers might change to more trickle irrigation and just reduce their areas,” he said.

“When we start to see reduced supply in the market, the prices start to sneak up.

“You might not notice it overnight but as we get further into winter they will.”

Lockyer Valley-based Koala Farms owner Anthony Staatz, who is a major supplier of lettuce, twin-pack baby cos, midi cos and broccoli to Coles and wholesale markets on the east coast, says he will have to scale back if water supply issues persist.

He said he plants about half a million lettuce plants a week to keep up with demand, but that may be in doubt in the future.

“We’re on the tail end of our season, so we’ll get through this season fine but if our bores don’t get recharged by next winter season then we’ll have to reduce the amount of plants we put in the ground,” he told ABC.

“There will just be less supply around and that will result in significant price rises.”

Mr Sippel said most farmers have relied on groundwater this season after the region’s three irrigation dams, Bill Gunn, Atkinson and Lake Clarendon, ran too low to supply water to growers two years ago.

“We hoped to get good rain last summer but that just didn’t eventuate,” he said.

“We had a little bit of rain in February that gave us some optimism that we were going to get the Lockyer Creek to run and it just about started but then the tap turned off.

“You give it another month, two months and growers will say their bores are starting to suck a bit of air. It’ll get tough.”

Atkinson Dam is currently 5.4 per cent full, Bill Gunn Dam is 3.8 per cent full and Lake Clarendon Dam is just 0.5 per cent full, meaning water cannot be released to recharge groundwater aquifers or provide flows into surrounding creeks and weirs.

For the full report go to Drought could cause vegetable prices to skyrocket if Australia’s salad bowl doesn’t get summer rain