Queensland sugarcane growers’ organisation CANEGROWERS is paying tribute to the resilience of its members a decade on from a horror 2011.
“After a sodden 2010 harvest, 2011 started with flooding in January before the 500km wide, severe Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasi ripped and smashed through northern regions in February causing a further estimated $500 million impact on the sugarcane industry,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said.
“Experiencing wind gusts in excess of 200 km/h, some growers had their homes, sheds and 100% of their crop for that year blown apart. Others were left to harvest battered and broken cane for a greatly reduced income.”
The weather impacts meant 2011’s Queensland sugarcane harvest came in under 28 million tonnes – well below the usual 32-35 million tonnes of cane usually harvested in Australia at the time.
“A lot of that drop was the effect of Cyclone Yasi’s winds and the weeks of flooding and overcast weather that followed,” Mr Galligan said. “In the worst hit region, north of Townsville, the harvest went from 10.69 million tonnes in 2010 to just 6.5 million in 2011.
“CANEGROWERS lobbied to secure government assistance across the industry and the following years saw a massive rebuilding, replanting and recovery effort.
“Through that disaster recovery effort, the earlier work towards securing our industry’s sustainability credentials were progressed – farm recovery included improved layouts, drainage and adoption of technology such as GPS guidance for machinery to reduce soil disturbance.
“We now have international sugar market recognition that our farms produce sugarcane that meets sustainability certification.
“Anniversaries such as this are a time to reflect, recognise how far we’ve come and re-focus on where we are going.
“They provide an opportunity for us to acknowledge the remarkable resilience of the farmers and communities of North Queensland to survive and rebuild to continue to contribute positively to Queensland.”