AUSTRALIA’S tomato and capsicum supply could be under threat after Cyclone Debbie smashed the key production area around Bowen on the Queensland central coast.
The region provides about 95 per cent of Australia's winter supply of tomatoes and capsicums, which were due for picking in late May, said Cherry Emerick of the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association. There was better news for banana and avocado growers, with key growing areas further north largely unaffected.
Ms Emerick said she had not been able to contact tomato and capsicum growers on Tuesday morning to find out the extent of the crop damage, with phone signals apparently being down. However, she feared the worst.
"It's more than likely there's been some damage to infrastructure, damage to packing sheds, and I'd say definitely to crop as well," she said.
"Planting was at the end of February, so I would say the plants wouldn't have fared very well.
"They'd be very lucky if they've still got plastic (ground sheets) in the ground. Anyone that had stakes up for their tomatoes, they'd be down as well."
Ms Emerick said growers would not be able to re-plant more crops from nurseries if the rain continued. If the damage is extensive, there would be a supply gap and prices would inevitably increase, she said.
Bowen is also the home of the Kensington Pride mango, the most widely grown variety in Australia, and a major supplier of the fruit to supermarkets and greengrocers.
This season's crop has already been harvested however, heading to market in late November and December.
Grower Jonathan Freeman, who has 155 hectares of mango tree across three farms around Bowen, said he had not been able to get around his properties to assess the damage but was feeling optimistic.
"We know we lost some trees but at the moment we don't think it's too bad. We're just watching out for some flooding," he told Fairfax Media.
"Mango trees are very resilient. All the palm trees get smashed and the other indigenous trees get smashed but mango trees are very strong."
Banana prices skyrocketed after crops were destroyed when Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland in 2011, but the key growing area in the state's north had escaped Debbie's path, a spokeswoman for the Australian Banana Growers' Council said.
The council did not expect any market impact on bananas, but was concerned the trail of destruction could disrupt road transport of the fruit south.
The affected region is not a major producer of avocados, with production of that fruit also centred further north, Ms Emerick said.
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