Cyclone damage has dashed hopes for growing Australian sugar
production, with fears that flooded cane will rot before it can be harvested.
The US Department of Agriculture's bureau in Canberra
forecast sugar production in Australia to fall by 300,000 tonnes year-on-year,
to 4.80m tonnes, "due to the recent impact of tropical cyclone Debbie on north
Queensland growing areas".
"Production had been
expected to increase, as the area of production for sugar cane is forecast at
410,000 hectares in 2017-18 in response to higher world prices," the bureau
With consumption stable, exports are also seen falling by
300,000 tonnes, to 3.70m tonnes.
Bent and broken cane
"The Burdekin, Proserpine and Mackay sugar growing regions
in north Queensland were most affected by the tropical cyclone," the bureau
"Early indications are that 35% of all sugarcane in the
Proserpine region may have been damaged, with 20% damage across the Mackay
Some cane in these areas has been physically destroyed,
after high wind and water resulted in "bent, uprooted or snapped," the bureau
said. This twisted and fallen cane, as well as mud and debris, will slow
And in flooded areas, the crop could decay before harvest.
Potentially for crop
But the bureau noted that in areas where the cane was not
broken by winds, and were flooding was only short-lived, "a high proportion of
the affected crop could be recovered".
And the high soil moisture could actually improves prospects
for undamaged cane in the region, come harvest time.
In addition, mills and processing facilities were largely
unaffected by the cyclone, which is good news for processing capacity.
"These varying factors make it difficult to assess the full
impact of the cyclone," said the bureau.