Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Dying river leaving mark on family budget

FAMILIES will suffer hip-pocket pain with the revelation food prices are heading only one way - up.

Following claims the nation's food bowl - the Murray-Darling Basin - is on life support, the prices of grocery items from bread and wine to milk and oranges will rise.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Ben Fargher said scientific forecasts of less water and hotter temperatures were not good news for farmers - or consumers.

Combined with ongoing drought and water shortages, the high global demand for food and the increasing costs of fuel, fertilisers, chemicals and labour, Mr Fargher predicted price rises "across the board".

"It's hitting now, we're seeing upward pressure on prices now," he said.

Implementing an emissions trading scheme would also put upward pressure on prices, Mr Fargher said.

"We have two options. We can either somehow think that it's all doom and gloom, or we can support our farmers and give them tools to adapt, like new infrastructure, to be more water efficient."

Price increases are certain to hit the dairy industry as well as irrigated crops like rice, fruit and vegetables, nuts and legumes.

The days of cheap wine are almost certainly over while reduced grain production - which will be the case if enough rain doesn't fall in time for this year's winter crop - will result in higher bread prices.

Less grain also means less feed for the red meat and poultry sectors, resulting in more expensive chicken, beef and lamb.

Chief market analyst at Meat and Livestock Australia, Peter Weeks, said consumers were already seeing some retail price rises as a result of the high cost of grain.

"If climate change is here to stay then it has to mean higher meat prices because of higher grain prices around the world," he said.

Australian Citrus Growers chief executive Judith Damiani said irrigators were experiencing unprecedented conditions, with another year of low to zero water allocations.

"The consumer doesn't want to hear about more price rises," she said.

"But everyone has to face the fact Australian food will cost more."

Australian Dairy farmers President Allan Burgess said the price of milk was "more likely to go up than down.


Murray-Darling water forecast figures
The report says that by 2030 there could be 41 per cent less water available in the Murray-Darling. Water availability in the Murray-Darling could drop by almost half by 2030, according to a new report released by the Prime Minister.

No comments: