News and Views

Bowen growers count the costs of Cyclone Debbie

Growers in Australia’s largest winter cropping region have taken a blow of more than $100 million after Cyclone Debbie ripped through the Bowen Gumlu region.

Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA) joined with Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to tour the cyclone ravaged farms once access became available on the 30th of March 2017 to estimate the extent of the damage.

BGGA Industry Development Officer Cherry Emerick said up to 20% of the regions seedlings were planted in readiness for the season in what is a $450 million industry that feeds the nation with vegetables from May to November.

She said that people were still counting the costs of the damage done to their sheds, current plantings destroyed, flooded paddocks and broken equipment and most importantly, what they will do next to get back up on their feet.

Many growers were still flooded in and phone contact, running water and electricity were either unavailable or intermittent.

“No matter whom we spoke with, all our growers had 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,” Ms Emerick said.

“Consumers won’t feel the immediate supply and price effects until at least May 2017 when the first of the crops would have been due to hit the local fruit shop shelves.

“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,” Ms Emerick said.

Ms Emerick said growers would be hoping for wind to dry out their land enough for them to get a second crop of plants, currently in nurseries or being stored on their properties, in the ground in time for picking season.

She said that the best thing consumers could do would be to continue to support their local fruit shops by buying vegetables through the winter period even if prices became steeper from the shorter supply.

The main crops effected will be tomatoes, capsicums, melons, beans, eggplant, pumpkin and zucchinis.

Bowen is the largest winter vegetable growing region in Australia sending fruit and vegetables to domestic markets and exporting to international markets. The $450 million industry a year industry Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA) is the first point of contact for growers and industry in the region.

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