CYCLONE DEALS MAJOR BLOW TO SUGARCANE
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.
WAITING GAME: Cane farmers will have to wait until crops dry out to know the full extent of the damage.