Fresh food costs soar

THE cost of fresh fruit and vegetables is expected to skyrocket after floods wiped out important growing regions and food distribution infrastructure in Queensland.

Byron Bay-based fruit and vegetable wholesaler Sam Stewart said he had been unable to source produce from Queensland since Tuesday.

Mr Stewart said trucks loaded with fresh produce had been unable to get to Rocklea markets, a major distribution centre in Brisbane, because floodwaters had cut the roads

The situation was made worse after Rocklea became inundated with 3m of water, destroying fridges and storage facilities, after the Brisbane River peaked yesterday.

Mr Stewart said he was now forced to buy produce from Sydney to supply many of the region's restaurants and clubs.

He said the cost of transport from Sydney was triple the cost from Brisbane and this would lead to significant increases in the cost of fresh produce.

The Lockyer Valley, which was devastated by floods this week, produces potatoes, onions, pumpkin, watermelon, cucumber and leafy greens.

Mr Stewart said fresh produce supplies had been short even before flooding due to poor seasonal conditions, but now he expected the shortage to continue for several months.

In the meantime, he was hopeful a temporary marketplace would be set-up somewhere in Brisbane for the distribution of whatever produce was available.

Lennox Head based greengrocer Dave Waugh said he sourced about 95 per cent of his fresh produce from Rocklea and much of it was grown in flood devastated areas.

“It's a catastrophe,” Mr Waugh said.

Supplies in his shop were low and without any new produce he would run out of stock by Saturday, he said.

After that he was unsure what the future would hold.

In the Northern Rivers many farmers have struggled since September with high rainfall and a lack of sunlight. The cost of the big wet to the Northern Rivers is estimated to be several hundred million dollars.

In Queensland the cost of the floods is still being counted.

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