27th May 2008, JODIE THOMSON
Prices for fresh produce will need to rise to cover a jump in fertiliser prices that has added to the jump fuel and labour costs.
Prices for fertiliser have more than doubled since December, with distributors warning of further rises as international supplies become increasingly difficult to source.
WA Vegetable Growers Association president David Anderson said the increase in fertiliser prices was the latest of many rising expenses which were not being matched by farm gate prices.
Julian Baker, owner of fertiliser and chemical supplier Growers Rural, said wholesale prices for standard nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium compound fertiliser had doubled to about $1400 a tonne in five months while prices for other top-grade fertilisers, common to hydroponics, had trebled.
The rise is staggering, he said. Basically we are buying whatever we can get and paying whatever we can to secure supplies.
Sulfate of potash from Taiwan has jumped from $US850/tonne for a shipment to $US1350/tonne in a matter of weeks, he said. Every time we buy it is costing more and I dont know where it will end up.
Soaring demand for food in developing countries, such as China and India, and demand for biofuel crops had driven global demand for fertilisers, CSBP fertiliser general manager Darryl Dent said supplies had been further restricted by increased export tariffs on fertiliser from China.
We are seeing some smaller growers drop out of the system because of the high running costs
WA Fruit Growers Association Diane Fry said unless farm gate prices improved, rising costs of fertiliser, fuel and labour would drive down the States fruit production as tightening margins pushed out more growers.