BFA has provided all members with an update on how organic producers have fared in the Queensland Flood Zone.  I thought you would enjoy the latest information:

By Alison J Beaty and Desta Itote

“From drought to flood, Queensland’s growers struggle on. The latest disaster to hit the state has been the flood that swept down from Toowoomba on to the Lockyer Valley below. No one could have predicted such a disaster, which left in its wake uninhabitable homes, unusable crops, unpassable roads and people wondering how to put their lives back together.

Troy Huggins’ property produces certified organic vegetables and hay. When the flood came he had no time to do anything but grab his family and make it to higher ground.

“A big wall of water came down from Toowoomba. It went all over our machinery, sheds, grading equipment and came a metre in to our house. There was no warning and as the water came up to my chest I carried the kids out and we went to an evacuation centre,” Troy said.

While anticipating the difficult time ahead rebuilding his property and getting life back to some semblance of normality, Troy remains positive.

“We count ourselves lucky that it came now rather than in May when we would have all our crops in the ground. We’ve lost some crops, but nothing like we would later in the year. We can replace possessions, but not lives; at least we’re all OK.”

Anthony Bauer of Bauer’s Organic Farm, also situated in the Lockyer Valley, says that he’s lost all the tomatoes and pumpkins that were in the ground, but that this isn’t a time when they have a lot of crops planted, so the losses are not as great as they would be at other times of the year. He says the next concern is planting the winter crops. With the prediction of further rain there’s a concern that the next plantings will be delayed.

“Our main season is the winter season and if the rain continues we can’t enter the paddocks to prepare them, so this will delay our autumn planting. We need three or four weeks of dry weather so we can get some work done,” Anthony said.

With flood affecting massive areas across the Eastern Seaboard the price of both conventional and organic fruit and vegetables looks set to rise.

“We’ve had rain in Queensland and New South Wales, and now Victoria is receiving rain, so this is going to push the price up of both organic and conventional fruit and veg. Even if farms can plant this year, the floods in the Lockyer Valley have caused huge damage to the roads; some roads have been cut in half. The farms might be able to plant, but the crops may not be able to get to market because the roads are impassable.”

Retailer Deborah Wray from Wray Organic Supermarkets & Cafes (Brisbane & Gold Coast) said that while neither of their stores in flood affected areas was directly affected, road closures to the south, west and north caused serious issues for supply.

“We had water all the way around us – Sunshine Coast, Lockyer Valley, and Grafton – there was this big circle of water and any producers that were outside that line couldn’t get to us,” she said.

With floods in all three states on the east coast – Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria – suppliers from interstate are also struggling to deliver their produce to market.

“The rain since November has made things difficult; we saw crops destroyed in Mildura and Young (where cherries were affected),” said Deborah.

“The biggest challenge for us during the floods, in terms of supplies, was milk. Our three major milk producers – Ivyhome, Barambah and Mungalli were cut off. We had farms which were high and dry and cows still being milked but they couldn’t get it to us.”

With sandbags at the ready, Deborah and the Wray Organic staff continued business as best as they could at the Indooroopilly and Newmarket stores.

“Customers were really happy that we stayed open and appreciated that we didn’t just close the doors. Our customers also visited the cafe which we kept running,” says Deborah.

Remarkably, Kialla Pure Foods grain mill in Toowoomba was left intact following the city’s horrendous flood. Currently, Kialla is the only Queensland milling company in operation due to the flood causing damage to other milling operations. Kialla’s Director, Quentin Kennedy, says the company has been supplying flour to both organic and conventional bakers over the last few days.

“The big conventional mills in Brisbane and Toowoomba were damaged in the floods, so we’re the only milling business operational at the moment. We sent 20 tonne of emergency flour to be distributed to bakers through the Bakery Association. We were temporarily supplying organic flour to the conventional market, but now the roads are open to the south the conventional bakers can obtain flour from elsewhere.”

According to Quentin, prices will rise because it is hard to come by good quality wheat for milling at the moment.

“We’ve got plenty of grain in storage, and more grain which was harvested prior to the floods which is in sealed silos. But there’s been a lot of spelt and wheat damage and it’s hard to say how the spelt will go. There could also be a shortage of linseed over winter.”

“Some growers will potentially be able to put in a late summer crop, but it depends if, and when, they can get on to their land.”

Deborah agrees, adding that while price and availability will be affected she believes organic shoppers understand the seasonal and environmental aspects which affect supply.

“I think that in the organic industry, consumers are used to not being able to buy certain vegetables all year – it’s a lot more seasonal.”

As the rest of the state struggles with recovering lost livelihoods and homes, Deborah says for them, the show must go on.

“As a retailer you are always faced with challenges – this was just seen as another challenge and the show goes on. The good news is that we survived.

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1 Comment on News from Organic Producers in Qld Flood Zone

  1. OrganicGirl says:

    I’ve noticed the organic food across Australia has gone up in price due to the recent flooding in Queensland.

    It hasn’t effect the organic skin care industry as much but definitely the cost of an organic apple is almost 20 – 30% more. But I’m still willing to pay for it.

    Give the Flood victims and businesses support.