Surcharge hits profits

INFLATED fuel prices may be the final death-knell for embattled farmers forced to fork out hundreds of dollars more in freight levies every week.

Sharon rockmelon and tomato grower Brett Attard said the increased fuel prices had added an extra 8% on top of their already heavy transport costs.

"This time of the year, we're spending about $10,000 a week in transport so that means we have to pay an extra $800 a week for the fuel hike,'' Mr Attard said.

"As far as rockmelons go, we're one of the smaller growers, but some growers may spend three times as much as us.

"The prices received on today's market are what they were 15 to 20 years ago, but the inputs have gone up considerably.

"It is no longer going to be worth freighting some seasonal produce to Sydney or Brisbane.

"We are the only industry that can't pass our increased costs on, so it's going to push some of the smaller growers out.''

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers executive officer Scott Coleman said fuel prices were 130% more than a decade ago, but there had been marginal price return increases for commodities for growers.

"In the past 10 years, other skyrocketing costs have included labour (up 60%), packaging (up 35%) and transport (up 30%), which dramatically impacts on growers' bottom line,'' Mr Coleman said.

"This is going to slim the margins out and unfortunately push a lot of smaller concerns out of the economically sustainable marketplace.''

Mundubbera cattle producer Alex O'Neill said cattle producers would not feel the impact as heavily as vegetable growers, but it would cost them.

"It's the subtle things that we're going to notice in the longer term, for example the transport of cattle, extra surcharges for the delivery of all sorts of things, plus if you are doing any improved pastures or cultivation to support your herd,'' Mrs O'Neill said.

"It also affects our personal budget such as groceries.

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