Farmers across Victoria will face an anxious weekend, with rainfall of up to 250 millimetres predicted in parts of the state, just as production is ramping up for the summer fruit and vegetable season.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast three day totals of around 100-200mm across most of northern and central regions of the state. The highest totals are expected over the northeast ranges, where three day totals may exceed 250mm. Elsewhere, totals are likely to be between 30-100 mm. The Victorian Farmers Federation says numerous areas of the agricultural industry are facing serious impacts.
"Significant and widespread flooding is likely across most of Victoria from Friday onwards," VFF Horticulture President Emma Germano said. "Heavy rain and scattered thunderstorms are likely to develop in the far west during Thursday night into Friday before extending across the remaining parts of the State during Friday. The heavy rain and thunderstorm activity will continue on Saturday and Sunday."
With several produce varieties just starting their harvest seasons, Ms Germano says this potentially disastrous weather event could not come at a worse time.
"Biggest crop concerns are stone fruit, vegetables, viticulture and table grapes, nearing harvest," she said. "This can impact fruit and vegetable quality and shelf life. There are concerns around infrastructure damage, with pumps in rivers, and there could be increases in prices if there is a drop in supply levels."
The effects will not just be felt over the next three days but significant stream rises are expected in response to the forecast rainfall. Widespread flooding is likely from Friday onwards in several catchment areas, where there is a Flood Watch in place, mostly in the east of the state. The humid conditions are also conducive to brown rot, which could potentially afflict stone fruit.
It is just another challenge for the state's agriculture industry over the past few months, with some growers dealing with late season frost, followed by hail.
"The extremely warm humid conditions for this time of the year have impacted a range of vegetable lines," Ms Germano said. "For example we have seen poor quality asparagus which has lowered export volumes and put downward pressure on domestic prices. Leafy crops suffer the most in these conditions. There have been some indications of lowering anticipated yields of fruit in the Goulburn Valley caused by hail events over recent months."
The VFF hopes farmers harvested as much as possible before the rain arrived, and is urging farmers to keep abreast of flood warnings.