How Cyclone Debbie Has Touched Australian Farmers

Farm Tender Apr 07, 2017

As one of the most devastating tropical storms to make landfall in Australia in recent years, the effects of Cyclone Debbie are widespread, damaging and demolishing commercial, residential and industrial properties across the eastern seaboard. Many communities across Queensland and New South Wales will take years to recover, but the damage to the states’ agricultural sectors has been catastrophic in some areas. Some farms will take years to fully recover, and the damage is more varied and will have a wider effect than many would think.  

Loss of revenue

The Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) is predicting that Cyclone Debbie has dealt more than $100 million in damage to the state’s agricultural industry. Overnight, hundreds of millions of dollars in sugarcane and vegetables were wiped off the state, with more than 90 per cent of the cane at Prosperine, Mackay and Plane Creek damaged. Pig and cattle farmers have reported extensive damage to their herds, with one Prosperine farmer saying she did not know where several dozens of her rare and extremely expensive black pigs were. 

With many Australian farmers already extremely vulnerable to running at a loss because of fluctuations in crop prices, Cyclone Debbie poses a major challenge for state and federal governments looking to support their local industries. 

Damaged infrastructure

The damage has not been limited to saleable crops. Many farmers have also seen their property destroyed or damaged, potentially affecting their output for a number of seasons. Growers have lost packing sheds and cool storage units, and pig and cattle farmers have seen animal shelters and machinery sheds destroyed, forcing them to pursue extensive and expensive repair and reconstruction efforts. 

One bright spot seems to be the sugarcane industry, whose crucial infrastructure such as rail links, irrigation equipment, sugar mills and storage sheds seems to have escaped damage. While the crop may have suffered as much as $150 million in damage, the industry is predicted to rebound quickly. 

A blow to the winter crop

While the physical damage of Cyclone Debbie was localised to two states, the effects will be felt across the country. The QFF has suggested that as much as a fifth of Bowen’s winter vegetable crop has been lost. With a stunted supply, prices are set to rise on a number of vegetables such as capsicum, tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, cucumber, beans and corn. Bowen is also a key growing region for mangoes, which can take years to recover from a damaged crop, potentially leading to a rise in prices for several seasons. 

Supporting Australian farmers through the next few months and years could see the industry rebound and prices return to normality sooner. 


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