Falling dollar welcomed

THE cliche mixed blessing is unavoidable.

While the free-fall in the Australian dollar in the past week may be bad news for those planning a trip overseas - or a long-distance road trip - it has been welcomed by exporters and the tourism industry.

The Aussie opened yesterday at US98.11 cents, down from 98.34 cents on Friday, but stronger than that day's low of 96.69 US cents, the currency's lowest level since December 2010.

It's a long way off the record high of just above US$1.10 in July.

And against the yen the Aussie dropped to as low as 73.9, its weakest point since July last year.

Peter McPherson, general manager of the Berry Exchange in Corindi, said he hoped it would keep falling - even though a weaker dollar means the price of crude oil rises.

"It's a very positive thing for us. The dollar has been strong for the past two or three seasons, but we had got used to it being from US55 cents to US$75."

However, he said, the main markets for blueberries were now in Europe and Asia, and there had been less volatility in the exchange rate there than with the US dollar.

But berry exporters currently face another problem with their biggest buyer, Japan, which previously took 300 tonnes of blueberries a year.

The country has put a halt on berry imports from Australia because of fears about Mediterranean fruit fly and Queensland fruit fly.

"We believe the domestic market will be able to absorb that," Mr McPherson said.

"But we will be looking for other export markets as well, of course."

Meanwhile, the price of petrol has been pushed to a four-month high, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum.

Prices don't look they will be falling markedly any time soon - and the high petrol prices are likely to keep consumers away from shops, with most choosing to save for what many expect to be the rainy days ahead.

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