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Sugar and bananas cop Ita's brunt

Craig Zonca/Charlie McKillop/Phil Staley, Tuesday April 15, 2014 - 13:56 EST
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Chair of Canegrowers Mackay Kevin Borg surveys the lodged (flattened) cane. - ABC

The banana and sugar industries seem to have been the hardest hit in Queensland by Tropical Cyclone Ita.

Most of the state's cane, accounting for 90 per cent of the national crop, has been affected to varying degrees.

About 10 million tonnes of cane have been flooded or flattened, accounting for almost 30 per cent of Australian production, with the worst-hit districts expected to lose a third of their crop.

Lobby group Canegrowers says nine out of every 10 producers have been affected.

There is hope that much of the cane will recover, but it's too early to tell.

Chair of Herbert Canegrowers Steve Guazzo says they're still waiting for floodwaters to recede.

"It's going to be at least a couple of days before that gets away. It's critical the water gets away as quickly as possible."

He says sugar content will reduced in the waterlogged crops.

Further south, chair of Mackay Canegrowers Kevin Borg is hopeful the flattened crops can bounce back.

"I think some of the bigger cane, some of the earlier cut cane and some of the plant cane have gone over; it will take a while to recover. Some of the smaller cane has been sprawled and probably straight to fairly bent but it will probably straighten up and keep growing."

Banana growers at Lakeland, one of the worst hit areas north-west of Cairns, are trying to get business back to normal, and there's a sense of optimism from one of the largest producers, Peter Inderbitzen.

"After the wind we endured the whole night, and trees falling over around our house, I was sure that it was going to be flat. We are just so grateful."

He expects a crop loss between 15 and 20 per cent.

Hundreds of trucks and cars are back on the road in north Queensland after the Bruce Highway reopened just hours ago.

The main arterial to the north had been closed for 48 hours after Ita dumped more than 400 millimetres of rain in parts, causing extensive flash flooding.

For banana grower Cameron Mackay, whose family has suffered crop losses, getting fruit to market is the number one priority.

"There's at least 40 to 50 semis a day coming out of North Queensland with bananas on, so at the moment they're getting packed and stored and hoping to find their way onto a truck as soon as possible."


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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