La Nina's brutal weather: The good, the bad and the ugly

😃 The Good: Farmers celebrate 'rare' rain

😔 The Bad: The return of the $12 lettuce?

😥 The Ugly: No homes for farm workers

Savage storm systems are continuing to beat down on Australia’s east coast, flooding farms and threatening the country’s fruit and veg production.

But La Nina isn’t bad news for everyone. For some, the extra rainfall is a refreshing relief after years of heartache. So who's celebrating these soggy conditions?

Rain 'has been great' for some

Australia’s third consecutive La Nina has helped bring more than 24 millimetres of rain so far this month to “grateful” farmers in Alice Springs.

It’s an astounding figure given that the Telegraph Station gauge didn’t receive a single droplet in October from 2014, the year it opened, until two years ago.

“We’re an arid zone and out of 10 years we are dry to almost drought in seven of those,” Nicole Hayes from the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association told Yahoo News Australia.

She and her husband, a sixth generation farmer, run the 150 year old Undoolya cattle station, east of Alice Springs.

“The rain has been great for us and very helpful,” she said. “More green grass is growing, it’s really abundant and looking very fresh [which is] extremely important [in] enabling cattle to grow calves up really well.”

She also added that cattle are able to cope a lot better in hot weather extremes if they have access to good nutrition.

Cows on Nicole Hayes' property in Alice Springs.
Nicole Hayes says her cattle are doing well thanks to the recent rainfall in October. Source: Twitter


Grocery shopping prices could increase

The deluge of rain continuing to fall on Australia’s eastern states could hit customers at the cash register.

AUSVEG, the country’s peak body for vegetable growers, says many farmers will be lucky if their crops survive, and even if they do, flood damage to roads and infrastructure could impact the logistics of getting products to market.

“With the current floods we do anticipate that there might be a period where there might be a disruption in supply and that might impact prices down the line,” Shaun Lindhe from AUSVEG told Yahoo News Australia.

“From a consumer's perspective, if there are gaps in supply, then you will see an increase in prices.”

While he said it’s “probably unlikely” that we’ll see $12 lettuces – pointing to the Queensland floods earlier in the year when vegetables costs went through the roof – no one really knows how bad it could be.

But looking at the peak growing areas, apples, pears, nectarines, peaches and plums could all be on the chopping board.

Flooded farm.
Shaun Lindhe from AUSVEG says farmers will need to wait until flood waters recede to assess the damage to their crops. Source: AAP


Devastating long-term impact

The ongoing weather is another blow to farmers who are already struggling to recruit workers to regional communities.

“Labour shortages are really critical for our industry at the moment, trying to get workers to plant, harvest and pack crops,” Mr Lundhe said.

With lots of properties now underwater, particularly in northern Victoria, he says the task of finding staff to assist will be even tougher.

“If we don't have housing for workers for future crops, then that might impact getting workers on farms,” Mr Lundhe explained.

“So the impact on that will have flow on effects not just in the medium term, but probably also in the long term in terms of actually getting workers to be able to pick a harvest crop.”


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