Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie says farmers shouldn't cop brunt of grocery hikes after bushfires
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie says Australians will have to pay more for food shopping because of this season’s tragic bushfires but has warned supermarkets not to put pressure on farmers declaring now was the time for big chains to step and do more than talk about being “fresh food people”.
It comes as Government estimates reveal there were about 19,000 farmers, foresters and fishers in regions hard-hit by blazes.
At a press conference in Canberra this morning, Minister McKenzie said farmers were doing it tough and needed to make a living.
"In terms of prices of 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.
“Now, processors are doing the right thing by farmers, by actually paying milk cheques when in many cases they're not getting the product and therefore that's having an impact on their business.”
She called on supermarkets to step up and support farmers.
“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. I know we like to get all a bit romantic about it, but the reality is it is a business,” she said.
“They need to make a living and that means we need to pay the cost of producing the food and through tough times such as we're experiencing now, drought and bushfire are severely impacting input costs about farmers and now our processes in the supply chain so the other end of the supply chain needs to stump up.”
A spokesperson for Woolworths said it is actively monitoring the impact of the bushfires on its suppliers.
“At this stage, we have yet to see an impact on our fresh food supply because of bushfires. It's still early days in assessing the full situation on the ground,” they said.
“If we find there are farmers within our supply chain impacted by bushfires, we will be happy to discuss the ways in which we can support them to get back on their feet.”
A Coles spokesman said many of its suppliers had been hit by the fires and drought and the company was “working hard to support them”.
“Some products, particularly in fresh produce, may be unavailable or in limited supply in the short term,” they said.
The spokesman said Coles had been make additional payments to directly contracted dairy farmers in NSW and northern Victoria since December to help them meet higher expenses as a result of the drought, without making any change to retail prices.