The Eastern Seaboard of Australia continues to incur significant disruptions to Fresh Vegetable Supplies. Noteworthy is the most recent flooding and ongoing rainfall that occurred in Southeast Queensland, and in particular impacted the Lockyer Valley, causing heavy losses to the upcoming winter vegetable program out of this area. Of significance is that the Lockyer Valley plays a weighty contribution to the winter vegetable supply program for the Eastern Seaboard of Australia. The heavy rain caused extensive flooding and destroyed crops and farming infrastructure that will have the consequence of affecting the supply for many lines, some for a period of weeks, others for up to 8-12 weeks.
Lines to be disrupted for the next month:
- Baby Leaf Lines including Baby Rocket, Baby Spinach, Mesculin Mix. Baby Leaf supply’s will be extremely difficult over the next few weeks with crops destroyed that were coming up for harvest. Baby Leaf lines are picked very young and within a month we should see supplies become more stable if the weather stabilises from this point.
- Beans and Corn will be scarce for a month or so until such times as Far North Queensland supplies come into full swing.
Lines to be disrupted over the next 4-6 weeks:
- Tomatoes (including Gourmet, Roma and Cherry) and Zucchinis. Tomato and Zucchini supplies have been delayed due to planting interruptions in Bundaberg and also Bowen. This on top of a cold start to the winter which will keep supplies in check for at least the next 4 – 6 weeks. Prices are at least 50% higher than would usually be expected at this time of the year.
- Cucumbers (Lebanese and Continental) are affected with Northern NSW supplies disrupted by the rain over the last few months. Heavy reliance on fruit from the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland will keep prices for these lines very high for the winter period.
Lines that will be affected extensively for the next 2 months will be:
- Lettuce Lines (Iceberg and Cos)
- Gem Cos Twin Packs
- Cabbages (Green and Red)
Supplies of the above lines are primarily grown in the Lockyer Valley region which has suffered by far the most significant disruption from the recent rains and flooding. The above lines are set to be affected for the entire upcoming season starting now for at least into August. Supplies will be bolstered out of Werribee and East Gippsland however their supplies are at their lightest through winter with heavy reliance traditionally coming out of SEQ. We will see very high prices for these lines over the coming weeks.
- Onions (Brown and Spanish) are set to be problematic in September through December with significant losses of these crops that were presently planted for this time in the Lockyer Valley. They are forecast to be very expensive through this time and it is likely we will need to explore imported stock for this period.
What is of relative comfort is that fruit remains reasonable through this time with supplies of Apples, Pears, Citrus (Oranges, Mandarins, Lemons, Limes), Avocadoes, Melons to remain reasonably priced and reflecting what would normally be expected to be paying at this time of the year.
Strawberries will be tight for June/ July with their season delayed by the rain in SEQ. Supplies would normally start mid-June, however it is more realistic that supplies will be more constant by the end of July.
Longer Term Issues for the industry.
Aside from the weather-related issues noted above it is important to be mindful of the significant cost pressures growers, transport operators and the supply chain in general are experiencing. Growers of produce are presently experiencing unprecedented cost pressures presently across the board. These include:
- Seed – both securing supply and it’s cost. Growers are ordering seed between 12 and 24 months in advance to ensure supply and prices for seed are increasing.
- Fertiliser has dramatically increased in price with Phosphate based fertilisers going up 3 – 4-fold in price due to the war in Ukraine in the last six months.
- Fuel and Energy costs associated with the growing and cold chain which is important for fresh produce is at unprecedented highs.
- Labour shortages are an ongoing issue.
- The above factors are weighing heavily on growers’ decision making and causing them to err on the cautionary side when it comes to decisions on how much growers will be planting.
- Covid has had a sobering effect on the supply chain with many operators holding off on investment and growth plans. With the economy now bouncing back as strongly as it has, the supply chain is not in a position to react quickly which in addition to the above is causing an inflationary effect driven by demand with a faltering supply. We believe it will take some time for the balance between demand and supply to be restored.
We are very aware of the cost impost this places on our industry and we will be doing all we can to keep timely information coming through on what is best value and possible alternatives for lines that are unreliable in supply and/ or expensive.