Australia has the capacity to, and more often than not does, produce more food that it needs. So much so, that it is more often than not the weather that makes farming profitable in this country. In the wake of Cyclone Debbie just over 5 months ago prices for many fresh produce lines experienced a steep increase. Tomatoes and capsicum for example went from from $1.99/kg to as high as $11.99/kg (retail) overnight once the devastation that farming enterprises experienced began to effect supply. Seeing the higher prices many growers (as soon as they could get back onto their farms) planted up to double and this coupled with near perfect growing conditions has caused supply to outweigh demand. The prices of many fruits and vegetables have fallen to such low prices that everyone in the supply chain is at a higher risk of losing money. More produce grown means more seedlings, fertiliser, pesticides, diesel, water. More produce picked means more wages, packaging, cold storage, transport. Lower prices mean that producers are often running at a loss or close to it, sometimes making it difficult to pay wages, fertiliser, packaging and freight costs. The producer (farmer) is working for too little, and as Dad says, “One needs to learn to ride the lows to take advantage of the highs – and save during the highs to pay for the lows”.
I have heard of a lettuce farm in Gatton that is near a well known cert organic producer in the area. The lettuce farmer plants 100,000 lettuce per week and aims to break even for 9 months per year. He factors in that with weather events effecting supply throughout the country, he can bank on 12 weeks per year being sufficiently profitable to make riding the 9 months of lows worth it. Other groups market together, setting up supply chains that are protected by contract or handshake at the sales end and growing practices that ensure consistent quality and supply at the other. Protective cropping and co-operative growing on separate farms are effective ways to maintain supply. If one is not fortunate enough to be able to set a sales price and get it consistently then they must ride the waves of supply and demand.
Running a farm grown box and wholesale business allows for us to provide a more consistent supply at a better price. As farmers we need to adapt and seek points of sale for our produce that can get a more consistent price such as selling directly to retail outlets. Developing relationships with new retail outlets can take time and often an extreme weather event can open a door that was once closed. And most important to remember is that at some point an extreme weather event is likely to effect our/your farm. It would be best to have enough in the tank to ride the lows…to take advantage of the highs.
This week we would like to thank Brunswick Health Foods for stocking some of our products and supporting local farmers :))