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Food prices to soar as bushfires hit 19,000 farmers

With bushfires burning across the country, shortages of fresh produce have already begun, and Australians are being warned it will get worse.

An estimated 19,000 farmers, foresters and fishers have been affected by the fires.

Supermarkets have already warned of the toll the fires are having on supply, and say it will drive prices up.

Federal Agricultural Minister, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said shoppers can expect to pay more for many fresh food products.

“A restriction of supply will have an impact on horticulture, fruit and vegetable access, and supplies, and price, and also for red meat,” she told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

Ms McKenzie said it’s appropriate for consumers to pay a premium for products that are in short supply, or are costing extra money to produce as a result of the fires.

“Many farmers are milking … they’re having to, in some cases, have to empty that milk down the drain because they haven’t got a second generator on hand to keep it cool, or because it’s unsafe and we can’t get the milk tankers through,” she said.

“Our milk processors are still giving the milk cheques to the farmer in good faith that, once they can get the tankers through, that milk will be picked up.

“That additional cost of the bushfire crisis is being borne by the farmer and the processor. It’s appropriate, I think, that supermarkets and consumers pay that additional price.”

Exactly how severe shortages will be, and which products will be most impacted, remains unclear.

“In each localised region there’s going to be different fallout, and in many of them we’re still fighting live fires as we speak,” Ms McKenzie said.

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Image: Bloomberg