Brisbane Markets goes under water while macadamia and pecan growers flooded in Qld & NSW

Ashley Walmsley
By Ashley Walmsley
Updated March 1 2022 - 4:23am, first published 3:58am
HIGH: Water at its 15m peak of the flood at Woodlawn, northern NSW. According to Australian Pecan Association president Scott Clark, this is 2.7m higher than 1974 which was the previous biggest flood.

WITH the Brisbane Markets underwater, the Queensland fresh produce supply chain is grappling with how the current weather event will impact the sector both short and long term.

As with many areas throughout south east Queensland and northern New South Wales, rain fell and flood waters rose to engulf the central markets hub which puts through in excess of 700 million kilograms of produce valued at more than $2 billion.

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A post on the Brisbane Markets website informed visitors it was closed for trade until further notice.

"Due to flood levels at the Brisbane Markets and the closure of road access to the site, Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) asks that you do not attempt to access the Brisbane Markets until further notice," the site said.

"BML personnel on site have observed that flood water has peaked, but more peaks are expected. At its highest level, the water rose to approximately 8.0m AHD.

"BML continues to have a team on site to ensure that critical services and infrastructure can be reinstated once flood waters start to recede and they have commenced the preliminary evaluation of damage."

The Rocklea-based operation was totally inundated in the flooding event of 2011.

ONLINE: The flood information notice on the Brisbane Markets website.

Growers in the hard-hit regions, particularly in the Gatton area, are still assessing the damage however there are reports of entire crops destroyed and farm infrastructure washed away.

Growcom policy and advocacy manager Richard Shannon said the group's members had reported a range of impacts including the inability to get harvest machinery into waterlogged fields and food safety issues where produce has been sitting in water.

"Low lying veg growers in the Lockyer have been entirely inundated with 100 per cent crop losses," Mr Shannon said.

"Some have had serious erosion, damage to on-farm water storages; others with water through their packing shed."

Macadamia crops washed away

THE major weather event hit key macadamia production areas as well just as the harvest was set to begin.

Mr Shannon said there have been growers with nuts on the ground that have been washed away.

NSW Farmers Lismore branch chair and macadamia farmer Warren Elvery said there would be major losses as a result of the flooding, which was the worst he had ever seen.

"There are going to be big losses in the industry in terms of quality and quantity," Mr Elvery said.

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"We had 347mm of rain overnight (February 27) and all of the work we've done building up our soil and getting ready for harvest could all be for nothing."

He said he remembers the sea of water that came through back in 1974 and 2017.

"This is far worse than that already and they reckon this rain could hang around a while yet," he said.

The recent Australian Macadamia Society forecast had the 2022 macadamia crop predicted to reach 54,930 tonnes in-shell at 3.5 per cent moisture (58,900 tonnes in-shell at 10pc), an increase from last year's crop of 51,500t at in-shell 3.5pc moisture (55,200t in-shell, 10pc moisture).

It is expected this will be revised down.

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Pecans also in firing line

PECAN nut growers in the area have also been hit with Australian Pecan Association president Scott Clark saying the flooding and prolonged wet since December has had a massive detrimental effect on the coastal pecan crop.

"It is too early to get an estimate of the damage as yet due to the water still covering the trees," Mr Clark said.

"As it stands at the moment in Lismore we still have levels well above major flood heights.

"My best guess at the moment would be 80pc plus loss of the crop in southern Queensland and northern NSW.

"The rain and flooding on the mid north coast is only just ramping up but we are expecting similar losses in that area."

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NSW Farmers president James Jackson called for urgent relief funds to flow.

"The fury of mother nature that lashed Brisbane in making its way south, claiming lives and damaging property," Mr Jackson said.

"We are standing by our members who are living in flood-affected communities as the rain continues and we want to remind everyone to stay safe.

"As with last year's flooding it may be weeks until we understand the full impact of these heavy rains, but our farmers and our regional people are tough and resilient, and they will get through this."

The flooding comes a year after a similar event wreaked havoc across the region, prompting government assistance that is continuing to flow even now.

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Ashley Walmsley

Ashley Walmsley

Editor, Good Fruit & Vegetables

For more than a decade, Ashley Walmsley has written about Australian agriculture. Having grown up on his parents smallcrops, cane and cattle property in Queensland, but clearly unable to grow anything himself, it was a natural progression for him to pursue a career writing about rural industries. He is currently the editor of Fairfax Media’s only national, fresh produce magazine, Good Fruit & Vegetables, while also covering horticulture stories for the agricultural papers and websites. When not writing about vegetables, fruits and nuts, Ashley enjoys playing and discussing video games from a simpler time, and doing impersonations of ABC radio presenters.

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