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Here we go…

Hey, it’s not like I didn’t warn you…

As Western Australia emerges from the festive season and retailers begin to restock fruit and vegetable supplies, the National Association of Retail Grocers is warning of skyrocketing prices within days.

Torrential rainfall in the Gascoyne just before Christmas caused the worst flooding in 50 years and Carnarvon, known as the food bowl of Western Australia, was badly effected.

The country’s eastern states are also experiencing uncharacteristic rainfall, with much of Queensland’s three  fruit and vegetable growing regions currently under flood water.

National Association of Retail Grocers chairman John Cummings said the cost of pumpkin had already more than doubled and he expected other fruit and vegetables to follow suit.

“We’ve seen pumpkins go from a cost to us of about 80 cents – on Friday they went up to $2,” Mr Cummings said.

“And that’s a direct result of the pumpkins (in Carnarvon) just getting washed straight out into the ocean.”

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Mr Cummings said the Carnarvon mango season would be cut short after crops were wiped out in the region that also supplies grapes, bananas, green capsicum and leafy vegetables like lettuce and celery.

Queensland’s usual supply of tomatoes and red capsicum were also affected.

He expects prices for some produce to rise by four-times their usual benchmark in the coming week and for the increases to continue for months.

“You are going to see it in basically all vegies even if something is locally grown,” he said.

“The farmer can get more for his produce by shipping it to other areas…southern Queensland is a huge tomato growing area and if farmers can get $4 or $5 a kilogram for their tomatoes why are they going to settle for less than that?”

Mr Cummings said stockpiles gathered by retailers before the holidays had dwindled and prices would rise in the coming days as they replenished stock.

“Retailers are expecting fresh shipments and that’s when you really start to see the shortages,” he said.

He signalled an increase in meat prices as the cost of grain also shoots up.

“Most of the beef, pork and chicken that we get are finished off in feed lots and they are grain fed,” he said.

While grain may be imported to meet demand if stocks dwindled, Mr Cummings said it was unlikely fresh food would also be brought in from overseas.

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