AUSTRALIANS are already paying more for meat, bread, dairy and fruit because climate change is disrupting food supply chains, from farms all the way to supermarket shelves, a new report has found.
The Fork in the Road report, commissioned by Farmers For Climate Action, found existing supply chains had been developed based on predictable weather patterns, but climate change was leading to "rapid and unpredictable" changes, which could lead to new choke points or blockages.
The uncertainty introduced by climate change has costs associated with it up and down the supply chain.
As the start of the supply chain, farms are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, facing challenges such as a lack of water, heat stress, shorter growing seasons and extreme weather events.
"All the organisations consulted for this project, without exception, identified that climate change gave rise to the problem of unpredictability," the report states.
"Unpredictability has costs throughout the food supply chain. For farmers, it makes production decisions higher risk, with a greater chance of error; it also increases the cost of insurance against those risks.
"Uncertainty affects transport, warehousing, storage and retail, making businesses more reluctant to invest in facilities that may be rendered uneconomic by unpredictable future events."
The availability of other farm inputs - fertiliser, fuel or pesticides - are also influenced by climate change, while transport is affected by rising fuel costs or abnormal weather events cutting of key routes, with the report pointing to the nation's rail connection between the east and wests coasts being severed by flooding in central Australia earlier this year.
Report author Stephen Bartos has previously penned reports for the federal government examining the resilience of the nation's supply chain. He said Australians took it for granted that food would always be available.
"Climate change disrupts this - it creates and amplifies risks all the way through the supply chain, from farm to warehouse to supermarket shelves," Mr Bartos said.
"Some farmers have already had to sell and shift to areas with more reliable rainfall which raises the issue of stranded assets, as packing houses and processors set up in specific regions where specific produce is currently grown such as dairy processing factories."
FFCA chief executive Fiona Davis said consumers would pay more for food as the impacts of climate change continued to grow.
"More lost food, less grass for farmers' livestock to eat, less water and less days to transport livestock - which cannot be transported in extreme heat - mean consumers pay more for food," Ms Davis said.
"It also means we're increasing the risk of food shortages in Australia. Getting produce off farm and into supermarkets, and ultimately Aussie homes becomes difficult or impossible to deliver when multiple events coincide.
"We need to act quickly to make our supply chains more robust, but ultimately to address the key driver of these difficulties, we need deep emissions cuts this decade to protect our farmers and our food supply chain."
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