Lockyer Valley lettuce farmers are in dire need of a multi-pronged financial package to help them survive while consumers can expect the price of lettuce to remain stubbornly high, according to the nation’s peak horticulture body.
The cost of lettuce has ballooned across Australian supermarkets with reports of prices fetching anywhere from $6 to $12 a head.
KFC is advising customers they are temporarily using a blend of lettuce and cabbage in stores in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania because of supply issues across the country.
Growcom acting chief executive Richard Shannon says the rising price and shortage is due in large part to production of lettuce essentially halting after the wet weather the region has copped.
“They will stay higher for some time for at least the period where we would have expected a lot of Australia’s lettuce to come out of the Lockyer Valley and out of Queensland,” Mr Shannon says.
“Production of lettuce shifts around depending on the time of year.
“I think there’s going to be variable supply of let us over the next few months so consumers and people in the shop should expect to see. elevated prices for at least a couple of months.”
A lot of growers in the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim are doing it exceptionally tough after bad weather conditions since November last year.
“It’s not just those growing lettuces either. There are plenty other winter vegetable growers that are really struggling right now,” Mr Shannon says.
Growcom wants the state and federal governments to develop a relief package to support farmers, ideally extending to help replanting.
“We’re asking state and federal governments to come together with a package that help not just the growers, but the entire region, the community and the economy get back on its feet,” Mr Shannon says.
Mr Shannon says the Lockyer Valley horticulture industry contributes about half a billion dollars to the economy.
“It’s a nationally significant growing region known as Australia’s salad bowl and we are seeing price impacts from constraints supply that are directly as a result of this event in the Lockyer Valley,” he says.
“It’s not just important to growers in the region. It’s also important to consumers in the affordability of lettuce, but also other winter veg, that we help these growers get back on their feet.”
Mr Shannon says it’s important to acknowledge the impacts are being felt as far north as Bowen, with tomato and capsicum crops affected, and on the Sunshine Coast with pineapple and strawberry growers unable to harvest due to the weather.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner says jointly-funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) have been activated based on initial damage reports collated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).
“The unseasonably late rain event from 6-20 May has resulted in cashflow issues from multiple crop losses, additional impacts to soils and erosion due to ongoing flooding of already waterlogged soils, and further infrastructure losses including reinstated fencing and livestock losses,” Mr Furner says.
“DAF has worked with local governments, industry and impacted producers to gather initial impacts to quickly activate financial recovery assistance.
“This assistance will provide affected producers with access to concessional loans of up to $250,000 and essential working capital loans of up to $100,000 at a concessional interest rate, and freight subsidies of up to $5,000.
Local government areas activated for this Southern Queensland Flood Event disaster assistance:
- Bundaberg Regional Council
- Gympie Regional Council
- Lockyer Valley Regional Council
- Moreton Bay Regional Council
- North Burnett Regional Council
- Scenic Rim Regional Council
- Somerset Regional Council
- South Burnett Regional Council
- Southern Downs Regional Council
- Toowoomba Regional Council
- Western Downs Regional Council
Primary producers who have suffered major damage outside the above declared areas may apply for an Individual Disaster Stricken Property (IDSP) declaration.
“An IDSP provides access to Queensland Government assistance similar to the Category B DRFA of freight subsidies and concessional loans,” Mr Furner says.
“I encourage primary producers to continue to report their damage on our online survey so we can continue to assess if further assistance is required.”
Image: AAP/DARREN ENGLAND