Woolworths, Coles issue warning as shoppers set to suffer price hikes

Australians looking forward to summer stone fruit may find that some of their favourite produce will be harder to find in the lead-up to Christmas as record rainfall and devastating floods continue to batter farmlands around the eastern states.

Fruit such as peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines are likely going to see a spike in prices as supermarkets warn recent floods have affected the supply and transport of fresh fruit in New South Wales, Victoria and other key agricultural areas.

Lower supply

Both Woolworths and Coles, two of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains, have already started to see the impact of the floods on the supply of produce and warn of potential shortages as farmers in the agricultural belt battle the elements to save their produce.

“The floods are impacting the ability to pick, pack and transport fresh fruit around the country,” a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia. “Our farmers are doing an amazing job in mitigating the majority of these impacts, however you will see that early season stone fruit is in lower supply at the moment.”

The supply of stone fruit such as peaches, apricots and nectarines are expected to be limited this summer as floods batter Australia's agricultural regions. Credit: Getty
The supply of stone fruit such as peaches, apricots and nectarines are expected to be limited this summer as floods batter Australia's agricultural regions. Credit: Getty

The spokesperson however says that while floods have been affecting their Victorian farmers for some weeks, they remain optimistic that as the water recedes and the sun shines, “the quality, taste and availability of the produce won’t be significantly impacted into summer.”

Popular snacks could be hit too

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci, in an address to Everyday Rewards members, explained that they expect to see a “delayed start” to the season of some fresh fruit and vegetables, including cherries and stone fruit as La Niña continues to wreak havoc in the food belt.

“The poor weather, especially in Tasmania, has also impacted supply of frozen vegetables (such as corn and potatoes) and potato crisps,” Banducci said. “In good news, mango season is upon us with more supply on the way.”

“We’re working hard to make sure we have enough stock of everything, but please bear with us if you’re currently seeing some gaps. The poor weather has compounded ongoing supply chain challenges (like shortages in raw materials, pallets and truck drivers), so it’s anything but straightforward,” he explained.

The supermarket giants say they are working with growers and suppliers in the affected regions, pledging support for farmers who have been impacted by the floods and bad weather.

Two major supermarkets in Sydney's southeast have been identified as venues of concern. Source: Getty, file.
Australia's two main supermarkets have revealed there will be problems with stock leading into Christmas. Source: Getty, file.

Enormous financial impact

In New South Wales alone, the NSW Farmers Association found that more than two-thirds of the state’s farmers were experiencing flooding for the second-year in a row, with more than three-quarters saying that they had planted less than half of their usual winter crop this season in response to wet weather.

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin, in a statement said they expect the financial impact to be enormous, with harvesting efforts delayed by several weeks as floodwater continued to wreak havoc on roads and paddocks.

“Farmers are saying they’re a bit over it, frankly, and it’s not hard to see why,” Martin said. “We know these farms are homes, not just workplaces, and having to deal with the uncertainty, stress and anxiety of living through this ongoing cycle of natural disasters is challenging.”

“When you consider farming has been a pretty expensive operation over the past year, and now so much of the food and fibre we have grown has been destroyed or damaged, it’s really tough from both a personal and a business standpoint,” he added and explained further that many farmers reported on-farm roads, fences, bridges and culverts would need to be replaced, with repair bills estimated to be over $100,000.

“Unfortunately this disaster is not over yet, but we know this year will go down in history not just as one of the worst widespread flooding events we’ve seen,” Martin said. “A lot of this flood damage cannot be insured against, and we’ll be feeling the impact well into next year in terms of missing the summer sowing window because the ground is still so wet.”

Disaster response

In a separate statement, the NSW Farmers also expressed the need for an urgent increase in emergency payments to flood-affected communities.

“The federal government's $25,000 emergency payments for primary producers were just one third of the $75,000 offered to farmers impacted by earlier floods, and with roads in disarray many communities will struggle to rebuild without greater support,” the group said.

"There needs to be a rapid and equitable natural disaster response no matter where you live, so people know what to expect and can access the help they need," Martin said. "We are getting a lot of experience living through these natural disasters, and while our governments are getting better at responding, there's clearly more that can be done.”

"It is critical that the state and federal governments now offer the same sort of support they gave to farmers and businesses up north earlier in the year, because these natural disasters take a long time to recover from – both emotionally and financially,” he added. “This is a real and evolving situation that requires a significant response.”

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