Cyclone Debbie's bitter battering for $2b sugar industry

THERE are fears the heart of Australia's $2 billion sugar industry may have been ripped out by Cyclone Debbie.

Debbie hit the middle of Queensland canegrowing country in the Whitsundays, Mackay and Burdekin regions on Tuesday with winds up to 250km/h flattening crops.

State MP for Whitsunday Jason Costigan toured his electorate before the cyclone's full devastation and even then was concerned with how much cane had been affected.

"I saw late yesterday (Monday) paddock after paddock of cane folds flattened by Debbie, who at that stage hadn't yet unleashed her full fury on our region," Mr Costigan said.


"The mind boggles as to how much cane has been flattened and more importantly how much cane will stand back up, and how that will impact the 2017 crop."

It's hoped the sugar industry won't suffer the same fate as the banana industry following 2006's Cyclone Larry, which destroyed banana crops around Innisfail and Tully worth up to $350 million, causing a national shortage.

A sugar cane crop at Proserpine bears the brunt of Cyclone Debbie. Picture: Liam Kidston.
A sugar cane crop at Proserpine bears the brunt of Cyclone Debbie. Picture: Liam Kidston.

About half of Queensland's sugarcane crop and more than 1150 cane farming families were in the path of Cyclone Debbie, which brings a double edged sword with flooding likely to follow.

Mr Costigan said the region was the heart of Australia's sugar industry and called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit the area to see the situation first hand.

'SHOCK AND AWE': Debbie's devastation revealed

Canegrowers chief executive Dan Galligan confirmed a lot of the crop had been flattened but farmers were yet to determine if they have been snapped.

"It will take another 48 hours to see if it's retrievable," he said.

Mr Galligan said the Burdekin, Proserpine and Mackay regions harvested about 17.5 million tonnes of cane last year, half of the Queensland crop.

"This year's crop in the ground in those regions would be of a similar size and would be worth $1.1 billion dollars as raw sugar," he said.

He also said there were serious concerns about the fate of the Wilmar-owned mill at Proserpine which was right in Debbie's path.

Topics:  bundaberg cyclone debbie mackay sugar whitsundays

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