Vegetable growers around the country are concerned today over more news about increases to refrigerant while their main customers Coles and Woolworths have announced they are going to closely scrutinise any requests for prices to increase.
“Vegetable growers around the entire country are concerned that they will need to wear the increase in costs and will have an uphill battle to change their prices to cover costs,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.
According to information released recently leading refrigerant supplier Heatcraft will be increasing their costs on 9 July 2012 on some of the most commonly used horticultural products.
“One of the most common refrigerants R134a will increase in cost from $65.72 per kilo to $181.82 per kilo which is a 176% increase in cost,” said Mr Churchill.
Another example of refrigerant used by hydroponic and root vegetable growers is much more severe. The R404a variety has been retailing for $92.88 per kilo and will now skyrocket to $377.71 per kilo according to Heatcraft, which represents an enormous 306% increase in cost.
“We applaud Coles and Woolworths’ steps to absorb their own electricity bill increases by their own energy saving measures but unfortunately vegetable producers are not as fortunate. Unless a fair mechanism is in place for growers to pass on their increased costs of production it will be another hit to their bottom line and another step towards the cliff,” said Mr Churchill.
Refrigerants are an extremely important part of the production process with growers needing them to cool, store and transport produce from the regions into metropolitan distribution centres and it is one of the largest costs in growers’ businesses.
“Unfortunately for many vegetable growers the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative which is designed to assist farmers with the increases has been of little use to vegetable producers. The options available through the scheme have been very coolly received by growers,” said Mr Churchill.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.