‘They’re gone’: Wild weather devastates banana crops

BANANA growers at Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands are tallying losses after surprise wind gusts of more than 90kph ripped trees down.

Dianne Sciacca at Pacific Coast Eco Bananas at Mourilyan said up to 80 per cent of trees were lost.

"We will have no fruit before August," she said.

"The bank is coming out tomorrow to assess the damage - the whole area has just been smashed.

"The trees are all down, they're gone, it is just flat."

Dennis Howe of Howe Farming Enterprises at Walkamin had substantial damage to banana trees. Picture: supplied.
Dennis Howe of Howe Farming Enterprises at Walkamin had substantial damage to banana trees. Picture: supplied.

She said she was disappointed there was not more warning that winds "in excess of 90kph" were coming.

"I had 14 staff I had to send home late in the morning because it wasn't safe to be here, and if I'd known ahead, I would have told them not to come in.

"Some people have suffered 100 per cent loss of crop, other areas as little as 10 per cent."

Mrs Sciacca's family business has 22 staff and five other farms supplying fruit.

Mark Nucifora, at Cowley, said wind started picking up at 10.30am on Monday ahead of the onslaught.

"In the space of 25 to 30 minutes, about 60 to 70 per cent of trees were knocked to the ground," he said.

"We are not going to have much production, nowhere near what we had planned."

Lakeland grower Paul Inderbitzin said 50 to 80 per cent of trees had been flattened at some farms.

The Sciacca family's Pacific Coast Eco Bananas farm was flattened with gale force winds from Cyclone Nirin. Picture: pacific Coast Eco Bananas.
The Sciacca family's Pacific Coast Eco Bananas farm was flattened with gale force winds from Cyclone Nirin. Picture: pacific Coast Eco Bananas.

"Trees with bunched bananas came down because of the weight in the trees, it is a significant effect for growers," he said.

Scott Franklin of Tropicana Banana Mareeba Farm said they were lucky to have only lost 5 per cent of their crop during the high winds on Monday morning.

"There could be another 5 per cent going down because a lot of trees are leaning so they might fall over as the days go on," he said.

"A lot of farmers got a lot worse."

Mr Franklin said it was likely he'd lose every bunch tree if there were more winds like Monday.

"Once it's weakened like that you don't know what'll happen if it comes back or comes closer to the coast," he said.

"It's a bit scary now, there'll be big damage if there's another wind like yesterday. "

He said in the next two to three weeks locals could expect to see a hike in banana prices due to shortage of supply.

Tablelands growers reported from 11am to 3.30pm conditions were like a category 2 cyclone.

Originally published as 'They're gone': Wild weather devastates banana crops



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