Meat, veggie price hike as 19,000 farmers hit by fires

THE price of vegetables and red meat will go up with pressure now on supermarkets to up the price of milk after more than 19,000 producers were hit by the bushfires.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has called on the big supermarkets to increase the price of milk and pass more money back to dairy producers and processors as shortages threaten the supply chain in parts of NSW and Victoria.

"It's up to the supermarkets to not just talk about being the fresh food people but get on with supporting, in a very real and tangible way, because farmers don't grow food for free, it's a business," she said.

 

Ms McKenzie said farmers needed to make a living and in "tough times" that meant pressure was pushed to the end of the supply chain so supermarkets and customers simply had to "stump up" the costs.

"In terms of prices for food, you might have seen reporting that supermarkets are letting the Australian public know that they'll have to pay more for their red meat. Yes, you will," she said.

"That they'll have to pay more for their fruit and vegetables because of the bushfires and the drought. Yes, you will.

"Well, then, the supermarkets also need to let the Australian public know that, because of the bushfires and the drought, you will have to pay more for your milk."

Ms McKenzie applauded milk processors for continuing to cut cheques for dairy producers even if they weren't receiving the usual supply of product, but recognised farmers needed more assistance.

"We've heard stories of dairy farmers fighting a fire, only to get home, the herd's safe … milking cows are still there and they've had to milk twice a day every day for the last 10 days to keep supply up," she said. "

 

Ms McKenzie said about 19,000 farmers, foresters and fishers had been affected by the fires.

Many of them had left their properties to join volunteer brigades in fighting the fires, but were now seeking to return home.

"We need to get our farmers back to business, to growing food. It's what they want to do. It's what they like to do," she said.

Ms McKenzie said the eligibility criteria for farmers will be "incredibly simple" to speed up the payments.

It comes as the federal government today announced farmers impacted by bushfires will be able to get a grant up to $75,000 to help rebuild fences, care for livestock and repair damaged infrastructure.

Farmer Sylvia Pozzebon is counting the cost after bushfire and drought hit her apple orchard in Applethorpe, Queensland. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Farmer Sylvia Pozzebon is counting the cost after bushfire and drought hit her apple orchard in Applethorpe, Queensland. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

The money will be drawn from the $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund and is estimated to cost about $100 million, but the program will not be capped.

"We need to get this cash in the hands of these producers so they can get on with the jobs that urgently need doing," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Farmers will not need to have their primary residence in the fire-affected area to qualify, and off-farm income will not be factored into the grants.

The relief package will be in addition to support for farmers dealing with drought.

Mr Morrison also welcomed news the United States had downgraded its travel advice for Australia in response to the bushfires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there’s still plenty for tourists to visit in Australia arguing the fires should not deter travellers going to other parts of the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there’s still plenty for tourists to visit in Australia arguing the fires should not deter travellers going to other parts of the country.

"There is a bit of a false perception overseas the entire continent has been affected," he said.

"I had the opportunity to raise this at very senior levels of the (Trump) administration and I particularly thank … obviously the president but also Vice President Pence and also Secretary Pompeo for their kind attention and urgent attention to those issues and we very much appreciate that being revised and that will be, I think, a welcome encouragement to our tourist industry, not just in the bushfire-affected areas.

"The discussions I had with the US administration was to point out the broad nature and the large-scale nature of our continent and the fact that, obviously, you can still go swimming on the reef and you can still be visiting Kakadu and still be visiting Uluru and, over in Western Australia, and in Cradle Mountain and as I was able to say, the south coast of New South Wales is open again as well."

The prime minister met with business leaders on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the bushfire response, including property loss, supply chains, staffing and customer levels.


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