The cruel irony of farming is that when things are good, prices are bad.

This winter provided perfect growing conditions in key farming areas in south-east Queensland and Victoria.

Hugh Gurney from the peak national growers group Ausveg says remaining financially viable is a delicate balancing act.

"There is a lot of product on the market and it makes it very difficult for growers to command a decent price for that product," he said.

Many farmers say they are not being paid enough to cover the cost of their production.

Grower Wayne Allum from Peak Crossing, south-west of Brisbane, is used to getting poor prices from wholesalers.

"I sent 200 boxes of tomatoes to the markets just before Christmas and I got $1.40 for them," he said.

"The boxes cost me $1.90.

"I stayed up all night packing and it was pretty disappointing to get that result after that much work."

Mr Allum has turned to selling his produce on a roadside stall to supplement his income.

"I mainly grow all the small crops and I sell them off the back of the ute for my stall," he said.

"I do that to supplement my wage because I need to have an income each week to really live."

Some retailers believe selling local produce from smaller stores is the answer.

Mark Vogler is an independent green grocer in Aratula, south of Peak Crossing.

"It's really important for our farmers that we support them," he said.

Mr Vogler says he sources more than half his stock from south-east Queensland or closer to home in the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley when possible.

He says the major supermarkets influence the wholesale price of produce with their market power, and that means farmers get less.

"I'm out on the farms, I'm talking with the major farms and the smaller farms and they're all feeling the sting of what these corporates are doing to them."

"There are less farmers out there."

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there were 157,000 farmers in Australia in 2011.

That number has decreased by 40 per cent over the past 30 years, with 15 per cent leaving in the past five years.

But the major supermarkets say they offer more security to farmers by dealing with them directly.

Coles and Woolworths now source most of their fresh produce directly from farms.

In a statement, Coles has told the ABC: "We appreciate that farmers are continually facing higher input costs and we believe by working directly with our suppliers we are providing them with greater transparency in pricing and higher sales volumes."

Woolworths said in a statement: "We work closely with growers on a long-term, sustainable basis so we get the right balance between supply and demand and to ensure our growers get a fair return."

Ausveg spokesman Hugh Gurney says that system is working for some growers.

"We've heard growers saying they sell directly to the supermarkets and they're fine, they're doing okay," he said.

"But we've also heard that some growers are going into the market system and they're struggling to command a decent price."

The Federal Government and the industry both want to see more of Australia's fresh produce exported to feed Asia's growing population.

But last year Australia only exported seven per cent of its fruit and vegetables, while the amount of imported produce has hit record levels.

In 2011/12 Australia imported $908 million worth of vegetables.

Farmers say imports do not have to meet the same standards of quality and food safety, and are being labelled in ways that are misleading.

They say restricting imports - or at least requiring them to match Australia's stringent food safety standards - would ease some of the pressure on their businesses.

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