Flood events across many Australian agricultural areas have had devastating effects on crop yields and will likely impact future food pricing and availability.
As floods continue to persist, farmers in northern Victoria are surveying the damage to current crops while also moving livestock to higher ground. Dairy farmers facing electricity outages are struggling to milk cows with some forced to throw out milk due to the lack of refrigeration. Dairy processor Fonterra said that it would continue to pay farmers for uncollected milk where flooding had restricted access.
Grain crop losses across the state are inevitable, but the full extent won’t be known for some time.
“We are all a bit concerned about the forecast for this coming week, and how much more [water] that might bring,” said Wimmera grain grower Andrew Weidemann.
“But it’s very hard to gauge, at this point, how much or how little [crop losses] might be,” he said.
Areas in New South Wales face a similar fate with growers facing multi-million dollar crop losses.
“We’ve also got 500 hectares of the most magnificent wheat crop, probably a million dollars worth of wheat, and it’s all going to go under,” said Deniliquin farmer Russell Tait.
“Every week, we seem to get 20 or 30 or 50mm of rain and as soon as it starts to get a bit dry it’s wet again,” he added.
“The other thing that’s being affected is the sowing of rice, because this is the time of year that we sow rice, and that’s been put back and affected.”
Flow-on effects for Australian shoppers will most likely be experienced in the fresh produce section as the floods impact current and future crops.
“The reports coming from these floods are devastating, and we know that our farmers and their communities are being severely impacted by these floods,” said Shaun Lindhe, communications manager at AUSVEG.
“Growers were already operating in a challenging and unpredictable environment, and this is another blow for hard-working farmers trying to get fresh food to Australian families,” he said.
“It is difficult to predict the extent of the situation at this early stage, but in the short-term, we anticipate that this will affect availability of supply and the logistics of moving produce to market.”
Agriculture Minister Murray Watts said that the floods would most likely have an impact on future food prices.
“But I think we’ve seen already in the floods we had in Queensland and New South Wales earlier in the year, that can have very dramatic effects on food supply and prices. This will be a serious longer-term consequence of these floods.”
In February this year, Minister Watts criticised then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not using money from the $4.7 billion disaster fund when Queensland faced the effects of floods and cyclones.
“Labor will do what the LNP haven’t – a real plan for disaster readiness,” he tweeted at the time.