Banana crop destroyed in blaze

Far North Queensland fire destroys banana farm


DEVASTATING: The burnt out banana crop.

DEVASTATING: The burnt out banana crop.

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A Tablelands banana grower lost their entire crop after a ferocious fire tore through the property.

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A TABLELANDS banana grower has lost their entire crop after a devastating fire tore through their property.

Rob and Krista Watkins estimate the damage to crops and infrastructure will amount to at least $200,000 after the intense blaze burned through their Walkamin property on Friday.

Mrs Watkins said over 100 acres of natural bushland had been destroyed, along with their 5000 lady finger banana plants.

Irrigation lines and fences were also decimated in the fast burning blaze.

Mrs Watkins said the fire broke out on their property about 10.30am on Friday and at 1pm they thought it had been secured.

But about 40 minutes later, the wind changed direction and wiped out their entire crop.

“It burnt through some 100 acres of native bushland… and later the wind changed and our entire crop of bananas burnt to the ground,” Mrs Watkins said.

“We had all the irrigation turned on and it burnt through all of that, and the think lush guinea grass is all gone, it’s pretty heartbreaking.

“We lost 5000 plants, our entire crop. It looks like the end of the world.

”The crop would be worth at least $150,000, then the irrigation along about $10,000 to $15,000 and all the fences were taken out as well so we’re looking at about $200,000 damage.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot of hard work and sweat and money to fix up what’s gone.”

The Watkins run Natural Evolution Foods and process unsaleable fruit into banana flour.

Their processing facility was unscathed and they will be able to continue processing bananas from other growers in the region.

“No one was hurt, there was not any loss of human like and our processing facility is fine, so we’re very blessed to be able to carry on business as normal.

”The good thing is the whole business is based on helping out other farmers, there’s still a lot of bananas around so we can still continue purchasing from the other farmers.”

Ms Watkins said the weather leading up to the fire created a perfect storm.

It had been 40C plus, windy, with no signs of rain.

Ms Watkins said the cause of the fire was being investigated, but believes it may have been caused by ‘human error,’ potentially a backpacker working on farms in the area flicking a cigarette butt.

“It was just so fierce – the smoke is horrendous, it’s definitely not the beautiful green Atherton Tablelands we’re used to.”

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