Drought to flood­ing rain

Wet im­pacts fresh pro­duce grow­ers in Queens­land

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Bush Ban­ter - Bill Hoff­man and Alan Lan­der news@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

SUN­SHINE Coast grow­ers and sup­pli­ers for the re­gion’s res­tau­rants and farm­ers’ mar­kets are strug­gling to meet de­mand af­ter months of al­most drought con­di­tions have been fol­lowed by a flood of rain.

The Bris­bane Pro­duce Mar­kets have warned shop­pers to ex­pect prices, par­tic­u­larly of toma­toes – which have been cheap for months, to rise sharply along with cau­li­flower, cap­sicum, car­rots, squash, sweet corn, zuc­chi­nis, pota­toes and sweet pota­toes, with dig­ging and har­vest­ing ham­pered by mud-soaked pad­docks and the del­uge of rain.

The wet has caused a slow­ing of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles to the pro­duce mar­kets with a flow-on ef­fect to prices paid at the counter.

Sun­shine Coast grow­ers have wel­comed the rain but would, ac­cord­ing to Bronywn Richards of Noosa Leafy Greens, have pre­ferred to see it in more mea­sured quan­ti­ties.

Ms Richards said grow­ers had gone a long time with­out wa­ter then it was ev­ery­where, flood­ing grow­ing ta­bles and leach­ing them of nu­tri­ents and leav­ing let­tuce and herbs flat­tened for days.

The lost nu­tri­ents would need re­plac­ing to main­tain growth, which would come at a cost.

“We love rain,” Ms Richards said.

“But not too much at once.” She said dis­cus­sions with Bund­aberg sup­pli­ers sug­gested the price of pota­toes was about to go through the roof af­ter the re­gion’s farms were com­pletely flooded.

“We’ll be okay,” she said.

“It shocks every­thing and then takes two weeks to re­cover.”

The busi­ness sup­plies some of Noosa’s finest res­tau­rants and is also usu­ally a reg­u­lar at re­gional farm­ers’ mar­kets.

The rain did hurt though with her hus­band Stephen putting the ini­tial re­place­ment cost at $16,000, as well as not be­ing in a po­si­tion to sup­ply reg­u­lar cus­tomers.

The farm grows let­tuce, spinach, kale, co­rian­der, rocket and other va­ri­eties with 25,000 plants nor­mally on the go at any one time.

“Our rain­wa­ter gauge showed 500mm of rain­fall; we’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced that here be­fore,” Mr Richards said of the im­pact on their Lake MacDonald prop­erty.

“The rain has cre­ated a new chan­nel in our drive­way, such was the force.

“Noosa Boathouse got the last of our good stuff.”

State Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were in cen­tral Queens­land and the Bur­nett as­sess­ing dam­age to agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion caused by flood­ing and heavy rain­fall last week.

Act­ing Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter

Our rain­wa­ter gauge showed 500mm of rain­fall... — Stephen Richards

An­thony Lyn­ham said Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries staff were meet­ing with farm­ers on their prop­er­ties to get a com­plete un­der­stand­ing of the prob­lems faced by some of the state’s key food bowls.

Noosa Farm­ers Mar­kets op­er­a­tor Shane Stan­ley said the weather had been good news for those who had waited for the rain to come be­fore plant­ing, while oth­ers who had man­aged to get crops in ear­lier had lost bits and pieces.

“Some crops will fare bet­ter than oth­ers,” he said.

“For man­goes from here to Bund­aberg, the rain has come at a bad time.”

Mr Stan­ley said he ex­pected prices at the farm­ers’ mar­kets to re­main rel­a­tively sta­ble, with grow­ers gen­er­ally fol­low­ing the ethos of charg­ing the real cost of grow­ing their pro­duce rather than cash­ing in on fluc­tu­a­tions based on sup­ply and de­mand.

PHO­TOS: ALAN LAN­DER

DAMP­ENER: Stephen Richards with a small por­tion of his lost greens, which were ex­posed to ex­treme heat then heavy rain.

Stephen Richards’ healthy rows of greens be­fore the rain de­stroyed the crop.

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