Severe frosts wipe out cane crops
By MARY MANN
THE worst frost in decades has left Broadwater cane farmer Rod Greentree shaking his head.
And he's not the only one.
Up to 150,000 tonnes of cane in the Richmond Valley and Lismore City Shires has been effected by frosts a bad patch of weather expected to leave growers with a 30 per cent loss in income next year.
"The 150,000 tonnes, due for harvest next year, has now been added to the tonnage which has to go to harvest this year," Mr Greentree said.
"There is not a stick of cane in the up-river region that isn't frost effected."
Mr Greentree said growers had their fingers crossed the frosts would back off for next season.
If growers cut now and had a good enough season next year, in about two years they could have a viable crop again, he said.
"It's just devastating how it can all freeze overnight," Mr Greentree said.
"Growers are now going through the exercise of getting their farms back in order in a hope they will get some return back in about two years."
Each year cane farmers put in a clean seed plot so they have disease-free cane to plant on their farm the next year.
But now some local growers do not even have their seed plots because they have been killed off by the frost.
"Some growers don't have any planting material now so they may be forced to buy-in clean seed, which just adds to the cost," Mr Greentree said.
"It's as bad as I've seen in my 16-plus years in the industry."
Rick Beattie, of the Broadwater Sugar Milling Co-operative, said 3000 hectares of cane crops in the region had been frosted to varying degrees of severity.
He explained that the frost kills the growing part of the plant, or the heart of it, meaning it can no longer shoot out.
"It was minus six degrees last Thursday, and minus 4.5 on Friday, which is not a great growing environment for a tropical plant," Mr Beattie said.
"Growers are now going through the process of assessing the damage and deciding what needs to be cut early.
"There are lots of meetings going on."