Sugar canegrowers say they won’t understand the full damage inflicted by cyclone Ita for another few months.
Almost 90 per cent of Australia’s sugar cane crop is thought to have been destroyed by cyclone Ita.
But Queensland’s Community Recovery Minister David Crisafulli says it’s up to the industry to seek government help.
“It’s too early to just make a blanket statement to say industry x needs this and industry y needs that,” he told reporters in Cairns on Tuesday.
“That’s not the way it should be done.”
Canegrowers said Ita destroyed 90 per cent of Australia’s crop as it moved south along the Queensland coast.
The peak body representing sugar cane harvesters in cyclone-hit parts of Queensland said the destruction of 10 million tonnes of cane in the state’s north also accounted for almost 30 per cent of Australia’s sugar production.
Cane farmers in Tully and Innisfail and as far south as Proserpine and Mackay have been affected.
While Ita was downgraded from a cyclone to a tropical low on Monday night, the sugar cane farming town of Ingham north of Townsville was stranded as the swollen Herbert River cut off the Bruce Highway.
The weather bureau was expecting flood levels to continue falling on Tuesday.
Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said growers would not realise the full extent of flood damage until harvesting began in late June.
“Many of our sugar cane growers will have a tough time recovering from this blow,” he said in a statement.
“We are going into damage control mode, focusing on the individual growers for whom Ita bought an immediate and severe economic loss.”
Inspector Kevin Gutteridge, who will lead the recovery effort, said his main priority was getting access to affected communities.
He said apart from repairing infrastructure, it was also important to assess the human cost of the disaster.
“It’s a great thing to sit there and say there’s always someone worse off,” he said.
“But if anyone needs help, please take the right steps to get the assistance you need … because down the track things will get much harder.”