Fresh produce impacts of Cyclone Debbie

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 3rd April 2017

Growers in one of Australia’s largest winter crop regions have experienced more than $100 million worth of damage after Cyclone Debbie hit the Bowen Gumlu region late last week.

The Bowen Gumlu region, located in Northern Queensland, is responsible for a large number of Australia’s winter fruit and vegetables sold both within Australian or for export overseas.

According to the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, the main crops affected by the huge cyclone were tomatoes, capsicums, melons, beans, eggplant, pumpkin and zucchinis.

Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Industry Development Officer, Cherry Emerick, said up to 20 per cent of the region’s seedlings had already been planted in readiness for the season ahead. This was all lost.

“All our growers have one thing in common – a long road ahead of them to recover their equipment and infrastructure, to prepare the paddocks again and source new seedlings, and that can’t happen overnight,” she said after visiting affected farmers in the region.

Australian Consumers might not feel effects immediately

Emerick said consumers will not feel the impact of the storm on prices and supply until at least May 2017 when the crops were expected to start hitting stores.

“However, our growers are resilient and what we can hope now is that they, and the 3,200 skilled and unskilled workers who are employed on our farms during the planting and harvesting season, can get back to some normality as soon as possible,” Emerick said.

The Bowen Gumlu fresh produce industry is estimated to be worth $450 million annually.

Australian shoppers are now being asked to help support the growers by continuing to purchase fruit and vegetables from the region even if prices increase.

Sugarcane farmers impacted too

Initial estimates indicate that $150 million of sugarcane crop was lost in the cyclone.

Dan Galligan, Chief Executive Officer of industry group, Canegrowers, said the damage was a “huge blow” to growers.

“In the hardest hit districts of Proserpine, Mackay and Plane Creek we have seen 100 per cent of the crop damaged in some way by the cyclone – bent over, uprooted and snapped,” he said.

Harvesting for sugar is expected to start in two months but the damage of the storm will still be felt then said Galligan.

“The harvest itself is going to be a real challenge because the cyclonic winds have twisted the cane in many directions in some paddocks and it’s lying on the ground on many farms meaning the mills will have to deal with high mud and debris levels,” Galligan said.


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