Qualipac directors Brad and Troy Qualischefski.
Qualipac directors Brad and Troy Qualischefski.

Vegetable prices expected to rise by up to 50 per cent

FARMERS are entering unknown territory as water supplies drop ever lower due to dry conditions and they are holding out for substantial rainfall in the coming weeks, some without a "plan B" if it doesn't arrive soon.

One of the Lockyer Valley's biggest vegetable producers, Qualipac, is just one of many that has significantly cut back production because of the unforgiving drought.

The family-run business, which has been farming in the state's salad bowl for more than a century, is preparing for the production of its winter crop.

They remain resilient and are hopeful the heavens will open up soon to give them the relief they need.

"It is dire," director Troy Qualischefski said.

"(Water supplies) are getting shorter every day."

Mr Qualischefski said there wasn't a timeline on when their water supplies would dry up.

"I don't have any answers for that," he said.

"We won't make any rash decision until January 30 on what we go and do (for the season ahead).

"That's a bit of the unknown. We've been in drought before and usually water hangs on and it gets lower and lower.

"We've got plan A but no plan B. Plan A is hopefully it's going to rain.

"We've done 2018 with half of the average rainfall. Then we did 2019 with quarter of the average rainfall. It has got to average out sooner or later … to bring us back to normal."

Mr Qualischefski estimated many growers in the valley were producing at about 20 per cent capacity.

"We've gone back from overhead irrigation to drip tape, which is nothing new," he said.

"In our business we've seen the change and we've gone to better usage of water.

"It takes a long time to get very dry but it takes a short time to get very wet.

"When you're dealing with weather, you just become an observer."

The impact of the drought, as well as bushfires, is expected to increase the price of vegetables by up to 50 per cent according to AUSVEG chief executive James Whiteside.

Mr Whiteside called on supermarkets to "shield" consumers from higher costs and for customers to be prepared to pay a little bit extra.


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