Flicking the switch is attributing to mounting costs in the rural industry

PUSHING a trolley around a supermarket and searching for a bargain often puts us in a different situation to understanding the plight of farmers.

IMPORTANT HARVEST: Riverina rice farmers bring in the crop.

IMPORTANT HARVEST: Riverina rice farmers bring in the crop.

Remember the $2 milk issue? Remember what it did to dairy farmers?

But also can you remember how it united the consumers and the agricultural sector.

Ultimately people went out of their way not to buy this cheap milk that was hurting rural Australia. 

Now there is a new battle at the coalface that is affecting both the shopper and the producer.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry into fresh food pricing has indicated that high electricity prices and government charges for water are the reason for escalating produce prices. 

However, without irrigation parts of the Riverina would be little more than a dust bowl. But when you add water it becomes a mecca for fresh produce. 

Irrigation and its importance is on the table. National Irrigators Council chief executive officer Steve Whan has said without irrigated agricultural production, the state would be importing much of the food that appears in its fresh food markets.

In fact, 80 per cent of the state’s vegetables come from irrigated production. And 76 per cent of our fruit and nuts require irrigation. This is backed up by 90 per cent of grapes, 55 per cent of dairy production and 100 per cent  of rice. But now the rising electricity costs that we have been hearing about from our city cousins for quite some time are hurting agriculture. 

Figures from the National Irrigators Council show that NSW electricity prices rate as high as fifth in the world. 

So the same issue that prevents people from adequately heating their homes in winter is now to blame for higher produce prices.

And it is the same issue that is hurting the rural sector at a grassroots level. 

While it is encouraging to see seasons change for many commodities in agriculture it can also come at the detriment of doing the best for consumers.

Hopefully this is an inquiry that will foster some action and address the issue of escalating electricity prices.