David Nielsen

Fruit and veg price rises 'a matter of time'

FRUIT and vegetables are about to get pricey at Clarence Valley green grocery outlets as the devastating effect of Cyclone Debbie on Queensland crops starts to take effect.

While no-one has predicted the stratospheric prices paid for bananas after Cyclone Yasi struck in 2011, local fruit and vegetable suppliers said it was just a matter of time.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar told national media while sugarcane crops had been impacted, they expected a number of growers had been hit.

He said the area was somewhat of a "food bowl" with the Bowen region known for capsicum, tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, cucumber, beans and corn.

Causley Fresh owner Karl Causley said supplies were good for now and it had been damage to infrastructure that had been the main problem.

"Trucks held up with floodwaters and road closures have been the issue recently," he said.

But he predicted this would change over the next month or two as the extent of the damage to vegetable crops becomes clear.

"Most of the winter veggies are grown in south-east Queensland," Mr Causley said. "We'll start to feel the effects in the next few months."

Mr Causley said fruit and vegetable prices tended to vary with or without natural disasters.

"Every crop has its season," he said. "And there's always something like a cyclone or a heatwave."

"When the prices of bananas went through the roof, I said then, there was always another fruit you could eat."

Farmer Lou's in South Grafton said vegetable prices had already been affected by the heatwave that preceded the cyclone. Employee Maria Felice said the heat had made some vegetables hard to source from the usual places.

"We normally get our capsicums from Bowen in Queensland, but we've been sourcing them from Tasmania," she said.

Ms Felice said while Farmer Lou's were happy to give local growers a chance, there was not the level of production to satisfy local demand.

"We source our potatoes from Dorrigo, " she said. "And we use local bananas and blueberries because they're the most professional set up. We did have some local tomatoes, but they stopped after the heatwave."


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