CY­CLONE DEALS MA­JOR BLOW TO SUG­AR­CANE

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS -

AL­MOST 90% of Aus­tralia’s sug­ar­cane crop on Queens­land’s north­ern coast­line has been im­pacted to “hugely vary­ing de­grees” by Cy­clone Ita ac­cord­ing to peak agri­cul­tural group Canegrowers.

The re­gion hard­est hit is home to one of the coun­try’s largest su­gar grow­ing re­gions, with the high winds and heavy rain es­ti­mated to have af­fected around 10 mil­lion tonnes of cane.

Canegrowers chair­man Paul Schem­bri said it was too early to know the full im­pact of the cy­clone, but anec­do­tal re­ports from north­ern grow­ers in­di­cated be­tween 70–90% of crops had been flat­tened in the re­gion hard­est hit around Moss­man, Cairns and Ing­ham.

But he said within these re­gions there were sig­nif­i­cant vari­ances, with some farms set to lose nearly their en­tire crop and oth­ers only re­ceiv­ing mi­nor dam­age.

Cane farm­ers in the Table­lands, the Bur­dekin, Tully, and In­n­is­fail also re­ported ma­jor dam­age, with the im­pact of the cy­clone ex­tend­ing as far south as Proser­pine and Mackay.

Mr Schem­bri said for many it was now a wait­ing game to see what crop would re­cover and stand back up as the weather cleared and the ground dried.

“The full im­pact will not be­come clear un­til grow­ers have had the op­por­tu­nity to ven­ture back into dev­as­tated fields, and pos­si­bly un­til the com­mence­ment of har­vest­ing in late June, when the im­pact of lower pro­duc­tiv­ity re­sult­ing from bro­ken, shred­ded and lodged cane can be ac­cu­rately as­sessed,” he said.

“We have to face the cold hard facts. Many of our sug­ar­cane grow­ers will have a tough time re­cov­er­ing from this blow. We are go­ing into dam­age con­trol mode, fo­cussing on the in­di­vid­ual grow­ers for whom Ita bought an im­me­di­ate and se­vere eco­nomic loss.

“The late­ness of Trop­i­cal Ita has been prob­lem­atic in it­self, with the sug­ar­cane har­vest al­most upon us and an al­most fully ma­ture crop and record fore­cast prospects for at least two far North Queens­land su­gar mills. The im­pact on roads and cane rail­ways is also an is­sue of con­cern, with the har­vest only weeks away.”

He said Canegrowers would be seek­ing govern­ment as­sis­tance for grow­ers who have lost their liveli­hood.

PHOTO: KARLEILA THOM­SEN

WAIT­ING GAME: Cane farm­ers will have to wait un­til crops dry out to know the full ex­tent of the dam­age.

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