Cyclone Ita hits Australian banana growers

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Cyclone Ita hits Australian banana growers

Update: The ABGC has announced a preliminary industry-wide loss estimate after Cyclone Ita passed through banana-growing regions further south.

The Australian Banana Growers' Council (ABGC) has assessed early reports of damage wrought by Cyclone Ita on North Queensland plantations, including four banana farms in Lakeland and one in Hope Vale. Bureau of Meteorology Cyclone Ita

While communication has been cut to a banana farm at an indigenous community in Hope Vale, helicopter surveillance showed that its entire 40-hectare crop was destroyed.

"Our major concern is the welfare of growers, their families and workers and it is a relief that there have so far been no reports of injuries," ABGC chairman Doug Phillips said in a release.

"We will be working with growers to help them during this difficult time and to assist with the reporting of crop and infrastructure damage to help with disaster assistance measures."

Losses of banana trees carrying bunches were reported to be between 20-50% in Lakeland, an area which accounts for approximately 500 hectares, or 5% of Australia’s total banana production.

Earlier on Friday, Lakeland’s largest banana grower, Swiss Farms was planning to harvest 250 tonnes of bananas, as well as 1500 bunches into storage to prepare for the severe rainfall and winds.

"There’s not much you can do, if you get 80 kilometres an hour-plus winds, well, that's the end of the bananas," Swiss Farms owner Peter Inderbitzen, told the ABC on Friday.

ABGC plans to assess damage to the Atherton Tablelands region, west of Cairns. Banana growers in that area who produce approximately 15% of the nation’s fruit, are predicted to be next in the cyclone’s path.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecasts Cyclone Ita to move southeast in the next 24 hours, with damaging winds of up to 120km/h extending down to Townsville. The rainfall should decrease by Monday, as the cyclone heads towards the Coral Sea and away from Australia’s coastline.

Photo: Bureau of Meteorology

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