Devastating floods triggered by ex-cyclone Jasper have wreaked havoc on far north Queensland, causing significant damage to vital crops such as mangoes, bananas, papaya, and avocados. Producers in the region are grappling with the aftermath of the deluge, leading to potential shortages of tropical fruits for consumers and anticipated price hikes.
The agricultural powerhouse of far north Queensland faced unprecedented rainfall, with one property near Cairns receiving a staggering 1.2 meters of rain in just five days. Skybury Farms, the largest papaya producer in Australia supplying up to 40,000kg of fruit weekly, reported that at least 20% of their papaya trees in Mareeba had been adversely affected. This region, being the primary papaya growing area for Australia, is expected to experience supply shortages.
Skybury’s Candy MacLaughlin expressed concerns about price increases and major freight delays as a consequence of the damaged supply routes. The impact extends beyond fruit production, with dairy farmers forced to dump milk due to supply disruptions, and growers struggling to bring their produce to market.
Prawn farmers managed to salvage most of their harvest before the cyclone hit, but the broader agricultural landscape faces severe repercussions. Mango farmers, already grappling with challenges in producing a robust crop, now confront extensive damage. Joe Moro, a mango farmer near Mareeba, reported a loss of half a million dollars, with 50% of his crop ruined by the prolonged rainfall.
The repercussions are felt across various crops, with papaya trees collapsing, banana trees falling, and avocado growers uncertain about the extent of the damage. The destruction of fence lines and washed-out roads compounds the challenges faced by the agricultural community.
Agriculture and Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt acknowledged the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that the clean-up efforts were underway but the damage was substantial. As the region embarks on a long recovery process, assistance in the form of disaster relief loans, up to $250,000, is being extended to producers affected by the cyclone. The far-reaching impact on both crops and livelihoods underscores the magnitude of this natural disaster, marking it as a major national event that necessitates concerted recovery efforts.