Banana farmers at Lakeland in far north Queensland are racing against the clock before Tropical Cyclone Ita hits late tomorrow night. They’re attempting to pick and pack as much fruit as possible.
With gale force winds expected to develop up to 220 kilometres from the centre of the cyclone by tonight, Lakeland’s biggest farm, Swiss Farms, hopes to get 250 tonnes of bananas and another 1,500 banana bunches into storage and out of harm’s way.
But owner Peter Inderbitzen knows that might be difficult to achieve if roads become cut and workers need to take shelter from what could be a ‘very, very serious blow’.
“We’re not doing much else than trying to pack… do the best you can, but there’s not much you can do. If you get 80 km/hr plus winds, well, that’s the end of the bananas. We’re going to do what we can, and if everything’s okay, we’re going to work very late tonight and tomorrow as well. We’re not doing much else than trying to pack. Everything’s up to date, our de-leafing’s right up… we’ve tied our irrigators down and cleaned up. Do the best you can, but there’s not much you can do. If you get 80 kilometres an hour-plus winds, well, that’s the end of the bananas.”
Mr Inderbitzen farms 260 hectares of bananas at Lakeland, 80 kilometres south of Cooktown and 240 kilometres north-west of Cairns. He inadvertently gained a major windfall three years ago when Cyclone Yasi decimated up to 90 per cent of Australia’s banana production.
He admits he’s been lucky in the past, but now his fate is in the lap of the weather gods.
“We’ve had a lot of wind in the past where we’ve lost big paddocks, but never the devastation that happened down on the (Cassowary) coast. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to wish that on anyone.”
The latest advice from the Bureau of Meteorology is the cyclone will continue to intensify and make landfall between Cape Sidmouth and Cooktown late on Friday.
source : http://www.australianexporter.com.au/2014/04/11/queensland-farmers-desperately-pick-bananas-cyclone-approaches/