Brunswick Heads oyster farmer Noel Baggaley stands to lose over two million oysters if the wet weather persists.
Brunswick Heads oyster farmer Noel Baggaley stands to lose over two million oysters if the wet weather persists. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Rain dampens farming profits

BRUNSWICK Heads oyster farmer Noel Baggaley has just enough stock in his cool room to get him through one more week of markets, but if it keeps raining he stands to lose over two million oysters.

If rain persists and the water at Brunswick harbour doesn't flush through and salt up again quickly enough, Mr Baggaley is facing a loss of as much as $200,000 in oysters he has been nurturing for three years.

Like other farmers The Northern Star spoke to over the weekend, Mr Baggaley is stoic about the impact of last week's rain.

"That's farming for you," Mr Baggaley said. "It's good fun. You can't change nature."

"From what I've heard the rain will stop soon," he said.

"We've been lucky there's been a king tide because that allows the water to turn over quickly.

"But if it does keep raining I won't be able to move the oysters, so I guess I'll just go to the pub."

Most Northern Rivers farmers had survived the big wet with minimal damage, with the exception of $500,000 worth of soybean crops lost in the Tweed area said Kath Robb, executive councillor for the NSW Farmers Association's region 13.

"It's been more of a nuisance for them," Ms Robb said.

"Although with another heavy downpour, the situation could be exacerbated," she said.

"It's a case of watch and see."

As well as the wait to see if his oysters survive, Noel Baggaley has a job ahead of him rescuing two of his flat punt boats that sunk in Brunswick during last week's downpour.

"There was just so much rain they filled up to the point where they actually sunk," he said.

"The little one is piled up on top of the bigger one."

Across from Mr Baggaley at the Bangalow Farmers Market on Saturday, organic farmer, Lance Powell from Mount Chowan Organics in Upper Burringbar said his bananas had survived the heavy down pour last week, but a crop of around 2,000 broccoli and cucumbers had been ruined.

"They're fragile and the leaves get bruised in the rain," Mr Powell said.

"They'll get wet feet and damp off now.

"We've had two months worth out of them, but we could have kept going for another month."

Mr Powell described last week's rains as the most ferocious he had seen since the flood event of 2005.

"The sound of the rain on the roof was deafening. I kept thinking the roof would fall in," he said.

Mr Powell said he was thankful that he was using an organic farming method involving growing groundcover plants to protect the topsoil in these weather events.

"On steep land you could lose a lot of top spoil in the rain, but the groundcover stabilises it," Mr Powell said.

Mr Powell said his banana plantation had not been damaged in last week's downpour.

"We got off lightly, I reckon," he said.

"We didn't get the winds some got along the coast.

"When you get these weather events, it can be taxing, but it is January so you learn to expect the unexpected.

"What we need now is some sunshine so the bananas can start filling out."



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