Australia: vegetables fare worst in initial cyclone assessments

April 15 , 2014

Vegetable growers in Australia's Bowen area have suffered "bitter setbacks" after tropical cyclone Ita swept through the North Queensland coast this weekend, reported horticultural organization Growcom. Red bell peppers - panorama

CEO Alex Livingstone said about 50% of vegetable production had been wiped out in the region, particularly tomatoes, bell peppers, beans, chili peppers and eggplants.

Flood waters prohibited assessments for zucchinis, eggplants and cantaloupes (rockmelons).

Livingstone described the Bowen area flooding as the worst in 40 years.

"Growers must start from scratch to prepare their properties for re-planting. This will involve laser levelling where flood waters have caused bad erosion, rebuilding trellises and soil conditioning," Livingstone said.

"Growers will have no income from their current crop to pay for the necessary work needed to be done to set themselves up for the next harvest and in some cases won't receive any income for 12 months."

Bananas and tree fruits

As for banana production, Growcom estimated 20% losses to growers in the Lakeland region and total losses in Hopevale.

In general, avocado, papaya (pawpaw) and mango trees avoided greater damages.

"In the main, tree crops and pawpaw and banana production in the Tully region - which was so massively damaged in Tropical Cyclone Yasi - missed a bullet this time around," Livingstone said.

"Growers estimate only around 5% damage to pawpaw production overall, although some individuals have reported losing around 30% of their crop."

A full damage assessment was expected in a couple of weeks, after flood waters had lowered. Livingstone hoped waters would recede quickly to avoid fungal issues.

Related stories: Australia: Cyclone Ita caused “minimal banana crop losses”, says ABGC

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