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North Queensland farms go under after monsoon rain causes widespread flooding

Renee Cluff, Saturday March 10, 2018 - 18:24 EDT
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Packing has come to a standstill at banana farms on the Cassowary Coast. - ABC

Widespread flooding in north Queensland has inundated and isolated farmland across an area stretching from Townsville to the Daintree.

Several in major agricultural districts, with the highest levels recorded in the Johnstone River at Innisfail, the Tully River and the Herbert River at Ingham.

North Queensland's banana industry supplies 94 per cent of Australia's bananas, almost all of which come from the Cassowary Coast, where road closures and flooded plantations are preventing any picking and packing.

Australian Banana Growers chairman Stephen Lowe has not been able to get on to his Tully Valley farm since Tuesday.

"I have harvested fruit waiting to be packed in my shed," he said.

"Because of the rain in Davidson Creek, it's actually cut the roads to my farm. Probably most of the farms in the Tully area have stopped."

Mr Lowe said he was concerned banana plants could be impacted if saturated fields did not dry up within the next few days.

"Bananas don't like getting their feet wet," he said.

"You'll get the occasional plant that will die, but more often than not you'll just get plants that produce a smaller bunch."

The other major concern for banana growers is the (TR4) disease.

There have already been in the Tully Valley, and flooding is a known vector for spreading the virus.

"It's really something we do not have control over, so we just have to hope that we don't get transfers by floodwaters," Mr Lowe said.

Cane fields become lakes

Further south in the Ingham region, sugar cane farmers are also vulnerable to continuing rain.

Entire fields have disappeared under metres of water, and the cane could die if the inundation is long-term.

Grower Michael Warring said 32 hectares of his crop was under water and his paddocks looked like a lake.

"A lot of that area, there's no cane showing through and the cane's probably about 3 metres tall, so there's probably up to 4 metres of water in some places," he said.

"If it goes under water for more than two or three days we start to get the hearts of the cane dying and start to get significant losses."

Mr Warring said during a similar flooding event in 2009, his crop died after being saturated for nine days.

Turf farmers isolated

At the base of the Gilles Range just outside Cairns, Robyn Anderlini and her husband Terry are also cut off by floodwaters.

The couple runs a turf farm, and 40 hectares of mainly buffalo and couch varieties are completely submerged.

"Most of the farm is looking like an ocean out there," she said.

"No-one could get to work, so we just called everyone not to come in and we just have to ride it out until the rain stops.

"There's usually not much damage at all unless we have silting. That's a problem, but generally once the rain stops it clears away."


© ABC 2018

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