Bowen crop growers nervous ahead of Debbie

Farmers in the Bowen region, home to major capsicum and tomato production, are bracing for potential devastation as Cyclone Debbie thunders slowly towards the north Queensland coast.


Debbie is currently expected to make landfall as a Category 4 cyclone somewhere between Bowen and Ayr on Tuesday morning, putting the agriculture industry at risk.

The Bowen area accounts for more than 90 per cent of Australian tomatoes and more than 95 per cent of capsicum for consumption in September and October.

The region’s agricultural industry is worth around $450 million a year and produces a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, ranging from mangoes and bananas to sweet corn.

Cherry Emerick from the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association said the impact of Cyclone Debbie on local farmers could be quite severe.

She said locals were anxious and some residents had begun evacuating the area.

“It’s quite difficult to know how bad it’s going to be, it’s dead quiet at the moment and blue skies,” Ms Emerick told AAP.

Queensland Seedlings owner Andrew Paterson said he was very worried about the impact of the cyclone on the farming community.

The company has moved 2.2 million seedlings to safety in the hope it’ll be able to get some crops back up and running.

“It’s important some crops survive but if we get this category (4) we are going to struggle,” Mr Paterson said.

“Hopefully we’ll get through it.”

Brak Pak farm owner Andy Brackley said the timing of the cyclone was very “inconvenient” because seeding started in mid-February.

“Up to February, we can manage it but after that it interferes with our crops,” Mr Brackley said.