From The Northern Star

Rain, rain, go away say orchardists

HIS orchard survived the summer floods but now wet weather could deliver Federal farmer Michael Steffan another blow.

Mr Steffan, the owner of Byron Macadamias, has been waiting for the rain to stop, while his macadamias sit on the orchard floor and rot.

The Northern Rivers has copped days of heavy rainfall and experts yesterday said they could not rule out another flood.

Mr Steffan, who bought the organic macadamia farm 12 months ago, said the rain earlier in the year had hampered his preparation for a harvest. "Now it's wet again and we can't harvest anything at all," he said.

It comes at the end of a difficult season for many growers.

Some orchards were badly damaged in hail storms that ripped through the region.

Others faced a number of pest and disease management problems directly related to the wet weather.

District Horticulturalist for the NSW Department of Primary Industries John Wilkie said now, with the current rainfall, having nuts on the ground could affect the quality of this year's nut product.

Unfortunately, more rain could be on the way.

The Bureau of Meteorology yesterday issued a severe weather warning for the Northern Rivers and forecaster Chris Webb said river flooding was a possibility if conditions worsened.

There was no flood warning yesterday for the Richmond River, but emergency services were keeping a close eye on low lying areas on the upper reaches of the Brunswick River.

Water, ankle-deep, ran through the shops at Evans Head yesterday.

The Evans Head Post Office, Oak Street Butcher Shop and Green Grocers were all flooded during heavy rain.

At Upper Main Arm school kids were sent home early because of flash flooding and in Byron Bay water flooded roads and footpaths and encroached on shops in the CBD.

Byron Corner Store owner David Anderson said business had been down, probably because people were unwilling to brave the woolly weather.

In Lismore, John Armistead, owner of Wyrallah Road business Armistead's Quality Picture Framing and Gallery, was hoping the rain would ease before conditions in the notoriously flood-prone street worsened.

He did not want a repeat of the summer floods when customers could not park in front of his shop without getting their feet wet.

All roads in Ballina remained open but many had water over them and drivers were asked to exercise caution.

Mr Webb said people were in for another wet few days, but the weather should begin to clear by the weekend.

Bureau of Meteorology Officer Shannon Symons said for the next three months there was a 65 to 75 per cent chance of above average rainfall.

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