Aussie shoppers have been warned to brace for higher prices, with the country’s food bowl – the Murray-Darling Basin – expecting a dry year ahead.
National weather bureau predictions for the next three months are bleak. Major dams are already getting low and unlikely to receive much-needed rain. The region’s two biggest dams, the Hume and Dartmouth, are at 40 and 60 per cent capacity. There will be less water for farmers to use for irrigation and some may get smaller, or even no water allocations.
And if farmers are tempted to steal water, former Australia Federal Police commissioner, interim inspector-general Mick Keelty, and Water Minister David Littleproud, are on watch for water thefts and corruption in the basin.
“A long summer is going to mean less water obviously and it’s going to raise the value of water,” Mr Keelty told the ABC.
“When the water value rises, that presents a temptation for people to access when they’re not entitled to access.”
While times are tough for farmers, residents in metropolitan areas will also feel the pinch in the form of higher prices consumers for thinning stocks of fresh produce.
“It’s scary … I’m a fourth-generation farmer and you look at your land and then you see potentially that you’re not going to be able to farm it and make money,” said Victorian grower Dean Morpeth, who also believes that some farmers will not even have a crop this season.
“We’d like to be successful, but without water it’s impossible.”
Riverina rice grower Antony Vagg is also concerned that with diminishing supplies, consumers can expect price spikes in fresh produce and dairy.
“It might get to the point very soon where people can’t buy Australian rice off the shelf,” he said.
“They might not be able to buy Australian milk at a price that’s reasonable in a few years …”
Forecasts of food price rises on top of low returns on interest rates and an increasing cost of living may make it difficult for many older Australians to make ends meet.
Mr Littleproud agrees that consumers would soon feel the pinch.
“This is their food bowl and obviously they scream when prices go up,” he said.
“Well, you’re going to see prices go up if there’s a lack of water.”
Are you prepared to pay more for Australian produce should stocks become scarcer?
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