MORE than half of the sugarcane area between Townsville and Cairns has been inundated in recent flooding, in a blow to growers and the 2018 crop.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said it was taking some time to access flooded farms to assess the damage, particularly in the Herbert River region where an estimated 80 per cent of the cane area was flooded.
Fast currents also caused significant damage to the crop.
Three days after the flood peak, water was still sitting in 20 per cent of the cane paddocks in the Tully region and 10 per cent of those in the Babinda/Mulgrave region.
“This situation causes us a lot of concern,” Mr Galligan said.
“While sugarcane is a resilient crop, the longer it sits in water, the more damage is done.
“We’re hoping that over the coming days all of the water will recede and the ground will start to dry out.
“Only then will we get a clear picture of what the flooding means for cane yields – in terms of tonnage and sugar content.
“Where total losses are being seen it is in blocks of young, plant cane that has been submerged and where fast-moving water has caused erosion, washing out sections of paddocks and taking plants with it.
“Where plants have survived, the flooding may mean slower growth and a set back to the development of the sugar in the stalks.”
Herbert River Canegrowers Chair Michael Pisano said repairing damage to infrastructure would be the immediate priority for growers.
“There is a lot of infrastructure damage, the mill reported the cane rail network not as much damage as 2009 in preliminary investigations, but there is still haul roads and blocks, drains and things like that,” Mr Pisano said.
“The biggest impact straight off will be resorting the infrastructure.
“Everyone is focused on the crop because that’s where the income comes from, but before we start harvesting there needs to be a lot of work done to get that infrastructure ready to get cane off the line.
“That’s the first up expense to growers, then there will be the extra cost of harvesting flood damaged cane.”
Mr Pisano said it was too early to say what impact the flood would have for yields in the Herbert River growing area, but even a 10 per cent reduction in output would cost the community millions of dollars.
“The reduction in CCS that goes without saying, but I’m not game to hazard a guess at this stage,” he said.