Tropical Cyclone Ita has caused extensive damage to major vegetables crops in Queensland’s Bowen region – a key source of vegetables for the domestic and New Zealand markets during the winter months.
An initial assessment by horticulture organisation Growcom found that 50 per cent of vegetable production in the Bowen region had been wiped out by severe flooding caused by the cyclone.
By contrast, Queensland's banana production sustained only 5 per cent crop losses on an industry-wide basis, although certain areas were worse hit.
The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) said there had been reports of minor losses of up to 10 per cent across the Tully growing region and little damage further north at Innisfail and west of Cairns on the Atherton Tablelands.
ABGC chairman Doug Phillips said it had been fortunate the cyclone had weakened from a category 4 system after making landfall, downgrading to a category 1 by the time it hit key northern Queensland banana-growing regions.
The north Queensland growing regions produce around 95 per cent of Australia’s bananas, worth annually around A$500m.
Meanwhile, Growcom said flooding in the Bowen area is the worst seen in more than 40 years.
“Growers with crops such as tomatoes, capsicums, beans, chillis and eggplants have had a bitter setback,” Growcom said in a statement. “Growers of crops such as zucchinis, eggplant and rock melons are not yet able to do assessments because of flood waters. Potato crops suffered minimal damage while avocado, pawpaw and mango trees remain standing."
Growcom said it would be a couple of weeks before a full assessment could be carried out, since flood waters still impeded growers in some regions from inspecting their properties. In addition, the time spent by crops and trees under flood waters would affect their survival rate.
Tropical cyclone Ita made landfall in Queensland on Friday 11 April as a category 4 storm.