Drought crushes farmers

 Maryborough’s Chicka Derwent was concerned at the dire conditions in March this year. Cr James Hansen (inset) says conditions have not improved significantly and the Fraser Coast is now in a ‘green drought’.
Maryborough’s Chicka Derwent was concerned at the dire conditions in March this year. Cr James Hansen (inset) says conditions have not improved significantly and the Fraser Coast is now in a ‘green drought’. File

A CRIPPLING drought means cane growers on the Fraser Coast will harvest only half of what they should this year.

Some growers, mainly those with no irrigation, will harvest nothing.

Canegrowers Maryborough chairman Jeff Atkinson said the crush was due to begin on August 4.

"They're estimating about 330 to 350 tonne," he said. "That's about half of what it should be."

Mr Atkinson said a typical crush would run from the first week of July to the first week of November.

"It just tells you how small the crop is," Mr Atkinson said. "Income's down for everyone."

He said energy prices were having a huge effect on farmers.

"I know growers who spent $100,000 on power alone," Mr Atkinson said. "Community getting behind the power costs would be a big plus."

Tinana cane farmer Ellison Maxwell said the extreme dry had left everyone in the same boat.

"The cash flow is going to be very much reduced in the best scenario," he said.

Mr Maxwell said some growers with no irrigation wouldn't be harvesting anything and the flow-on effects would hit the harvesting crews too, and molasses production would also be affected by the short, late crush and drastic costs.

He said he didn't believe the government was aware of the magnitude of the problem.

"It will have ramifications flowing into the following year's crop as well," he said.

"This is more than a 12-month event, it could be a three- or four-year event."

Topics:  agriculture drought farming

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