THE north’s cane growers are facing an anxious wait to determine the potential impact of widespread flooding on this season’s crop.
Cane farms from Ingham to the Burdekin have been inundated as a monsoon trough brought an unprecedented deluge to the region.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said it would be some time before the financial impact of the rain would be known.
“Some areas of sugarcane have been standing in water for many days and we are worried about the effect such a long inundation will have on the cane plants,” Mr Galligan said.
“Sugarcane doesn’t like to have its feet wet for too long or to be without sunlight for too long.
“It may not be until the harvest begins that reduced sugar content from stunted growth and side shoots can be measured.”
The Herbert River region around Ingham has had up to two metres of rain in the last two months, with the last week’s rainfall following on from a mass weather event which dumped a record breaking 681mm on Halifax in just 24 hours.
In the Burdekin region, some farms have had 600mm in a week, while Giru is under water after the Haughton River burst its banks.
“Along with the town of Giru and its sugar mill, our members’ paddocks, major roads and the cane train lines have been inundated to a depth of up to three metres in some places,” Mr Galligan said.
Burdekin Canegrowers chair Phil Marano said farms in the district remained too wet for growers to assess the damage to their crop as yet.
However, he said most of the submerged cane was well established and should recover once the sun came out.
“Giru copped it pretty hard, there’s a bit of damage to cane but it is too wet to get around to see it,” Mr Marano said.
“It is not the best thing, but most of the cane is fairly well established and as soon as the sun comes out it should dry out and bounce back.
“The impact shouldn’t be too bad unless it has been ripped out.”
Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said the region as a whole wasn’t looking too bad.
“It’s holding up not too bad, but some individuals have got a lot of damage going back to that rain in December, and then this hasn’t helped the recovery at all,” Mr Pisano said.
“There are pockets where more damage has happened, we had about 500mm overnight Saturday and there was paddocks that had cane washed out and erosion in paddocks, just from the amount of rain running quickly to get off.
”The problem is more the water logging and loss of productivity, while there is no sun and the ground is sodden.”
Mr Pisano said it was hard to tell what impact the flooding would have on the harvest, with his district crushing out 4.7 million tonne last year – higher than expected given two floods swept through the district in March.
Mr Galligan said Canegrowers would work with the Queensland Department of Agriculture to assess the damage, while insurance representatives were working with policy holders to expedite their claims.
“We are aware that some of our farming families have also had water through houses and sheds and critical irrigation infrastructure such as pumps have been destroyed,” Mr Galligan said.
“Canegrowers will be working with State and Federal agencies to respond where necessary, assess the impact when it is safe to do so and put in place recovery plans as soon as we can.”