Farmers who have been devastated by Australia’s ongoing bushfire situation need help and they need it now.
That means the cost of things like meat, vegetables and milk are about to skyrocket.
Prime Minister Scott Morrisons told reporters today that “whether it’s for milk or anything else like that, that will be assessed in the days and weeks ahead”.
But his Agriculture Minister, Bridget McKenzie, was in no mood to sugar coat the situation for the public. It’s going to cost you, she said.
“Yes, farmers are doing it tough,” she told reporters.
“We have the support structures there to assist them. In terms of prices for 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.
“That they’ll have to pay more for their fruit and vegetables because of the bushfires and the drought. Yes, you will.
“Well, then, the supermarkets also need to let the Australian public know that, because of the bushfires and the drought, you will have to pay more for your milk. Processors are doing the right thing by farmers by actually paying milk cheques when in many cases they’re not getting the product.”
She said supermarkets need to “get on with supporting (farmers) – 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 a bit romantic about but the reality is it is a business,” she said.
“They need to make a living. That means we need to pay the cost of producing the food. Tough times such as we’re experiencing now, drought and bushfire, are severely impacting the costs of our farmers and now our processors in the supply chain, so the other end of the supply chain needs to stump up.”
The Prime Minister’s press conference also included a warning of sorts – that Australia’s bushfire conditions – hot and dry – will continue for several months.
“I make this point,” Mr Morrison began. “Despite the fact that we are seeing some welcome and more relieving conditions in the foreseeable future over the next few days, and at this point, I have not been advised to me the next spike day, as we’ve seen in previous times, that’s not to say one won’t present itself, but it is to stress again that our focus is very much on not only the significant recovery plans that are being put in place – we will be announcing more of those today after the national security committee in its expanded form met today – but to stress there are many more months of responses and directly confronting these fires as they continue.”
Mr Morrison also announced a support package for farmers and primary producers that would include grants up to $75,000.
“We will be providing those $75,000 grants, up to $75,000, to farmers and primary producers in the affected areas to enable them to deal with the immediate needs that they have where they have been impacted by this fire event,” he said.
“So, where they’ve had that impact, and that can be everything from sheds and fences or it could be equipment, it could be the solar panels that actually power their pumping facilities on the dams or anything of this nature. Carcass disposal, where they’ve been engaged in that. The need to employ veterinarians and things of that nature.
“This is crucial rebuilding, immediate recovery support that is absolutely critical to enable these primary producers, these farmers, these graziers, to be able to get through this first hurdle, to get over this first hump, so they can be able to put themselves into a position to be able to start planning for their future.”