Flood waters surround sugarcane crops after after TC Debbie.
Flood waters surround sugarcane crops after after TC Debbie. Contributed

Farmers 'dodge a bullet' during TC Debbie

FRASER COAST farmers who are still cleaning up after Tropical Cyclone Debbie left a trail of flooding and damage across the Wide Bay, are thankful the majority of their crops were spared.

Local sugarcane and macadamia nut farms were lashed with heavy wind and rain as the powerful system moved further down the coast last week.

Chief Executive Officer at the Australian Macadamia Society Jolyon Burnett said crops remain relatively unscathed compared to their northern counterparts.

"From the preliminary assessment we have made, we are looking at 5% crop loss and less than 5% tree loss. Early indications make us hopeful the damage isn't as bad as initially thought,” Mr Burnett said.

"We haven't had the calls in from all regions yet, the growers hardest hit are the slowest to get back with their reports after assessing their own farms.

"Many growers were pleasantly surprised by how little damage there was.

"We are hopeful the overall damage in Bundy and Mackay is not too severe.”

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Australian macadamia nut farmers total forecast for this year before TC Debbie was 54,000 tonnes, with the Wide Bay producing 40% of that.

Now 51,000-52,000 tonnes is estimated to be produced.

"We have had a lot of reports of erosion and damage to roads and sensors, one of the other concerns is property damage on orchids as sensors are down and it opens it up to live stock which can cause damage from defecating and grazing,” he said.

"The big issue for the industry now is the need for dry weather so we can get on with the harvest, as the longer the crop sits on the wet ground, the more likely there is of quality deterioration.”

Manager of Maryborough Canegrowers Limited, Cameron Waterson, said they definitely 'dodged a bullet'.

"As far as the damage in Hervey Bay, there was a bit from the wind which caused broken cane, but not in large quantities,” Mr Waterson said.

"The crop was already struggling because of the drought so we always had losses, if anything it has helped sparked life back into it, so there have been a lot of happy, happy voices.

"The Sunshine Coast did have damage to crops and some infrastructure, and in the Nambour area they lost power as well.

"The damage was very minor for us if anything, and the beautiful part of it was the rain we got was what we needed in levels we needed.”

791,000 tonnes of sugarcane was harvested last year at the Maryborough Mill.

This year the production estimate was as low as 400,000 tonnes before the rain, now it's back to 500,000 depending on winter weather.

Mr Waterson said while the damage was minor, adequate future rainfall is still needed for the crop to meet this years demand.

"If that's it (rain), it's still not good,” he said.

"The mill estimates were almost a third of what we did the year before, now with this rain we can be optimistic that we will produce two thirds of last years production, which is a significant turn around.

"While everything is looking really green the height of the cane is very low to the ground and susceptible to frost damage. A lot of it may be too small to cut at this stage and may be stood over to the following year - but it depends how strongly we can grow before harvest.”

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