SOME vegetable prices could rise in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, which is due to hit one of the largest winter horticulture production regions in Australia today. And about half of Queensland’s sugarcane crop — worth about $1 billion — and more than 1000 cane farming families are in the path of the cyclone. The eye of Tropical Cyclone Debbie has hit the Whitsunday Islands off the north Queensland coast, and is expected to hit the mainland near Bowen, Midge Point and Proserpine about midday. The cyclone remains a category four — the worst cyclone to hit Queensland in six years — and is packing sustained winds near the centre of 175km/h, and gusts of up to 250km/h.
Rachel Mackenzie, the chief advocate of Queensland-based horticulture farmer group Growcom, described the Bowen area as “a very significant horticulture region.” She said any damage from the storm would impact fruit and vegetable prices, as it was one of the biggest winter vegetable production areas for certain crops. Crops grown in the Bowen region, between Townsville and Mackay, include capsicums, field tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, eggplants, pumpkins and corn, while fruits grown in the area include mangoes and rockmelons.
Tomato prices spiked in 2011 after a national shortage in the wake of damage from a major storm near Bowen, according to a Growcom report. The price of a box of tomatoes doubled from the long-term wholesale average of $14.30 to $21.52. Ms Mackenzie said it was hard to predict the impact of the cyclone, but the region produced more than 90 per cent of capsicums at certain times of the year and also has Australia’s largest field tomato crop.
“There will definitely be an impact on the price of capsicum and tomatoes,” she said.
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