Produce prices set to skyrocket


WITHIN the next 18 months the average consumer will not be able to afford to buy fresh produce.

That's the dire news from owner of Country Fresh Fruit & Vegetables at Moonee, Tony Maggio.

"Unless there is a water solution the Australian consumer will not be able to afford fruit and vegetables. Within the next 12-18 months fresh produce will become too expensive," he said.

Already, Mr Maggio said we are starting to see the effect of the water crisis on the prices of fresh produce.

"Everything has started to take affect across the board," he said.

"Tomatoes are $5-$6 a kilogram at the moment, within the last two to three weeks cauliflower has gone up to $5-$6, and broccoli is around $5-$6 a kilogram."

With the Prime Minister's new announcement of cutting water allocations to irrigation farmers in the Murray-Darling basin to zero unless the catchment received 'very substantial' rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, supply of fresh produce is under threat.

"There's not enough supply to meet demand -- we haven't seen the worst yet. Produce levels will decline," Mr Maggio said.

"With the lack of water, the fruit trees won't be bearing as much fruit.

"A lot of the growers in that area (the Murray-Darling Basin) who are trying to plant and expand can't because of the lack of water.

"These things are going to take effect right across the board. The price of the soft leaf line, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and celery, is going to start soaring through the roof."

As Australians brace themselves for the prospect of significantly higher food prices, Labor's health spokesperson, Nicola Roxon warned that the drought would worsen the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Oranges, mandarins, lemons, a vast array of stone fruit, apples, pears, grapes, potatoes, peas, beans, cabbages, avocados, pumpkin, carrots, asparagus and tomatoes are all grown in the basin, which accounts for 41 per cent of Australia's food production.

Ms Roxon said higher food prices might make parents think twice about buying fruit and vegetables, instead opting for high fat, high sugar and high salt foods.

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