Australians can expect to pay up to 30 per cent more for their fruit and vegetables as farmers struggle to find workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prices of produce that flourish in summer – stone fruit such as mangoes and peaches, grapes and pome fruit such as pears and apples – and vegetables are all expected to rise by between seven and 29 per cent.
The alarming statistics have been released in a new report for the March 2021 quarter by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
Australian farmers have been desperate for seasonal workers since international travel came to a grinding halt due to the global health crisis.
Backpackers living in the country on working holiday visas are required to complete three months of farm work if they want to stay on beyond one year, and six months if they plan to stay for a third year.
But due to borders keeping out international travellers, Australia’s fruit-picking industry has lost the majority of its workers and an estimated $38million worth of produce.
Australians can expect to pay up to 30 per cent more for their fruit and vegetables as farmers struggle to find workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic (stock image)
‘ABARES has assumed that the overseas labour supply will be around 50% of pre-COVID-19 levels in 2020-21, which is a significant fall in the usual workforce available to horticultural enterprises,’ the report said.
These seasonal workers aren’t expected to arrive any time soon with the peak harvest period being from February to April.
On top of the rising prices, overall production of fruit is forecast to drop by 17 per cent with a 2 per cent decrease for vegetable production.
Despite the increases, ABARES said it wasn’t ‘unusual’ for fruit and vegetables to rise by as much as 30 per cent.
It comes after Australians were warned the price of beef is also expected to soar in supermarkets this year.
Experts have said a ‘rebuild’ phase in the cattle industry could mean Aussies will pay more for their meat.
Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has warned of ‘volatile’ price movements for Aussie beef, with consumers to expect continued price increases at their local butcher.
Farming regions received heavy rainfall for the first time in several seasons last year, meaning farmers will be keeping more cattle on the newly-lush land.
Farmers are expected to take advantage of greener pastures and retain breeding stock rather than offload them onto trucks, meaning slaughter levels will fall.
The report predicts cattle slaughter will fall 3% to 6.9million head, with calf slaughter expected to drop by 7%.
The national cattle herd is predicted to increase by 2% to 25million head, with beef production for the year forecast to be 21 million tonnes.
While prices of fruit are expected to rise, overall production will fall by as much as 17 per cent, according to a new report (pictured Woolworths in Queensland)