Farmers are warning of food price rises in the wake of widespread floods that have caused stock, crop and infrastructure losses in NSW, as well as widespread property damage.
Cattle producer Robert Mackenzie said the floods were devastating for all farmers along the mid-north coast.
“When you look at how widespread this is, it is just horrendous,” he said.
“Any farmer along the coast has issues. There are stock losses and crops are just getting washed away.”
The Mackenzie family operate six farms around the town of Gloucester and two in the Hunter Valley as part of their Macka’s Australian Black Angus Beef business and all have been hit hard by the huge downpour, including one farm on the flooded Barrington River.
Mr Mackenzie said the floods – which come on top of drought, fires and China trade bans in the past three years – had caused massive damage.
“Roads are just washed away, we’ve had fences washed away, ripped out, equipment go underwater,” he said.
Silage put aside to feed cattle through the winter was lifted up by the floodwaters and swept downriver.
Mr Mackenzie said the Macka’s herd, including 3500 commercial breeders and 250 stud cattle, was saved after a frantic effort to shift them to higher ground on Thursday and Friday.
He said other farmers didn’t have that option or were caught out by the speed of the rising floodwaters as cattle were washed away and in some cases found in towns or on beaches.
Mr Mackenzie said his family had been farming around Gloucester since 1884 and not seen rain like that dumped on the region in recent days since the mid-1970s.
Coffs Harbour banana, avocado and vegetable grower Paul Shoker said the flooding would push up food prices.
Mr Shoker said although the Coffs region had not been as hard hit as places further south, he had suffered crop losses and damages running into tens of thousands of dollars after a hat-trick of big downpours to start the year.
“There are a lot of reports of damage and crops can’t be harvested because it is too wet and dangerous,” he said.
“This wet weather combined with labour shortages will contribute to higher food prices including core lines in the supermarkets.
“All the focus will be on Sydney now but this sort of event affects everyone, people will feel the pinch from this in the weeks and months to come.”
Mr Shoker, the president of the local branch of the NSW Farmers, said the losses were across all agricultural sectors .
The Coffs region produces about 75 per cent of Australia’s blueberries and Mr Shoker said there was a big question over that crop as well as banana supplies with growers in Queensland still cleaning up after Cyclone Niran.
He is bracing to lose more than 100 avocado trees on his farm that are “standing in water where we’ve never seen water before”.
Lower Namoi Cotton Growers’ Association chairman Rob Eveleigh said the industry, largely based west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW, hadn’t suffered and was in good shape as it prepared for the start of harvest.
“Most people, if they don’t get too much rain, will be right into cotton picking after Easter or mid-April,” he said.
“It is positive that there has been rain in general for cotton growing areas and, if we get some more in the Tablelands and flowing into dams, that would all be good for next season.”
Mr Mackenzie said that while farmers on the coast were doing it tough the rain was likely to be a fillip for crops and livestock further west.
The rain sets up NSW grain growers, who usually start seeding winter crops in April and last year produced their biggest ever harvest, for another good year.
The wet weather in Queensland and NSW also continues to fuel near record high cattle prices as producers who destocked in the drought look to rebuild herds.
Meat & Livestock Australia’s eastern young cattle price indicator ended last week at about $8.56 a kilogram, up from $7.40 at the same time last year and from $3.96 in 2019.
Mr Mackenzie said cattle prices were at a “ridiculous” level as producers tried to restock after what had been some tough years in the industry.
“The drought was horrendous. We spent $750,000 just keeping our cattle alive and that was only just over 12 months ago. The floods now are really devastating.”
Source – https://www.afr.com