Higher prices predicted for watermelons, chilli after torrential rain destroys summer crops

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Australians are set to pay a premium for popular summer produce, including watermelons and chillies, with widespread storms destroying crops across Queensland.

The deluge has made harvest difficult in some regions, with parts of Bundaberg receiving record-breaking totals in the past two weeks.

The wet weather has saturated growers’ properties, making it difficult to operate heavy machinery.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said the impact of the rainfall on local crops was devastating.

“We have been calling out for rain for many years now and we seem to have received an awful lot,” she said.

“For those producers with crops in the ground, they’re reporting up to 85 per cent losses for those crops.

Green watermelon split in half due to rainfallGreen watermelon split in half due to rainfall
Some growers have recorded up to 85 per cent in crop losses. (ABC Wide Bay: Jake Kearnan)

“Too much rainfall can result in a lot of fruit splitting and those products just simply have to be left behind in the paddock – they’re simply no good for consumption.”

Watermelons hit hard

Ms Grima said watermelon growers were reporting significant crop losses.

“We’ve got some beautiful watermelons that were coming out of the region, their season had only just started,” she said.

“Our lychees will be starting in a couple of weeks, we will then be going into our mango season, those crops are looking really good.

Farmer standing in the middle of his chill crops staring at the camera Farmer standing in the middle of his chill crops staring at the camera
Austchilli’s David De Paoli has had to start throwing out some of his crops due to the chillies splitting.(ABC Wide Bay: Jake Kearnan)

Chilli growers hope for reprieve

Chilli growers have been forced to revert to traditional methods of hand picking, with the saturated ground making it impossible to use heavy machinery.

The water is causing chillies to split and some crops have already being thrown out.

Two hands holding three chilliesTwo hands holding three chillies
A shortage of chillies in supermarkets is predicted just after Christmas.(ABC Wide Bay: Jake Kearnan)

Austchilli managing director David De Paoli said the ground was not getting a chance to dry out.

“If it rains, we deal with it, but when it keeps raining that’s when the difficulty comes,” he said.

“That’s how bad it is to get these crops off.

“There is going to be a big shortage in supermarkets, maybe just after Christmas – it will drive the prices up.”

‘Life just isn’t fair sometimes’

Melons Australia executive officer Johnathon Davey said growers needed more support.

“We are wanting to sit down and work through some sort of support and assistance mechanism with the Queensland government to work out and have that developed in consultation with industry,” he said.

“That needs to be done on a farm-by-farm approach because they’re not all impacted or at the same level and progression in their season as each other.

“One grower I spoke with this morning has been growing melons for 35 years and this is the worst impact that they have ever seen from weather.

“Life just isn’t fair sometimes.”