Australians are being warned that the price of fresh fruit and vegetables could double within a decade, as farmers face increasing pressure from rising labour, electricity costs and weather extremes.
At Luigi Coco's Elimbah strawberry farm in Queensland, many of the paddocks that should be filled with a million young plants are still empty. "Strawberries are going to be late and I believe we're not going to get the full amount planted so we could have a scarcity of fruit on the market which will push the price up for consumers," Mr Coco, the president of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association said.
As drought -ravaged strawberry nurseries in south-east Queensland are running weeks behind schedule, Mr Coco has been told he'll only get half the number of plants he ordered.
The drought-stricken Granite Belt's capacity to produce $300 million worth of fruit and vegetables every year is compromised. Mr Coco believes Australia urgently needs a national conversation about providing a consistent supply of affordable water to farmers who are facing increasing challenges caused by the new norm of weather extremes.