Cyclone Debbie chews up $150 million of Queensland’s cane crop
Initial estimates are putting the value of the Queensland sugarcane crop lost to Tropical Cyclone Debbie at $150 million.
“While that is a huge blow to our members, and the cyclone has shattered some family homes and left significant damage to sheds and other farm infrastructure and machinery, we are hearing no reports of serious injury,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said.
“In the hardest hit districts of Proserpine, Mackay and Plane Creek we have seen 100% of the crop damaged in some way by the cyclone – bent over, uprooted and snapped. There is a real danger now that some of the broken and water-logged cane will start to rot and be lost.”
With the harvest due to start in less than two months, surveys are indicating cane losses of up to 35% in the Proserpine region ($50 million), 20% across the Mackay region ($81 million) and 20% in Plane Creek ($18 million). It will take a number of days for growers and staff to visit every area to get a more accurate assessment.
“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,” Mr Galligan said.
As an ex-cyclone, the weather system has gone on to cause localised flooding and crop impacts in the Bundaberg, Isis, Maryborough and Rocky Point districts in Queensland and into the sugarcane areas of New South Wales.
“In the midst of all of the destruction, the messages of support CANEGROWERS has received on behalf of farmers from around the world, particularly from our colleague organisations in the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers, and from the wider agricultural community in Australia has been heartening.
“I want our members to know that as they begin the long clean-up and recovery process and begin to plan for a difficult harvest, there is genuine goodwill and concern for them, their families and their farms.”
Assessments are still underway along the cane train network and damage to tracks may affect the start date of the harvest for some growers. The mills and sugar terminals appear to have escaped serious damage.