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Queensland crops threatened by flood -

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Reporter: Annie Guest

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There's an anxious wait for North Queensland farmers who fear crops could be
wiped out if more rain falls as predicted. Much of the $1.75-billion sugarcane crop is already
inundated after two cyclones in recent weeks.

Sixty percent of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. Several towns remain isolated and
dependent on emergency relief.

Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: It's a cruel irony that while some graziers in central Queensland are drought-declared
and desperate for water, others in north-eastern areas are wishing the rain away.

STEPHEN GUAZZO: If we get a repeat episode, a rain event in the next few days it will increase
significantly the effect on 09 crop.

ANNIE GUEST: Stephen Guazzo grows sugarcane outside one of the worst affected towns, Ingham, north
of Townsville.

STEPHEN GUAZZO: Well as I stand on my veranda I don't need to look very far to see water. The house
is on the highest spot on the farm and basically the rest of the farm, it's got a very large body
of water on it at the moment.

ANNIE GUEST: So you're seeing sheets of water?

STEPHEN GUAZZO: Yep. Yeah, there's miles and miles of water out here and acres of it; acres and
acres and acres of cane is inundated at various levels.

ANNIE GUEST: What do you think it could mean for your cane crop?

STEPHEN GUAZZO: Well generally as a rule floods sort of come in three or four days and you get some
sort of level of damage but you know you won't get a total, the only places you'll get a total
write-off is where the cane is fully inundated for like I said, for over five or six days before
you'll actually start to kill cane completely.

ANNIE GUEST: So this next couple of days is crucial in terms of getting that water...

STEPHEN GUAZZO: Very critical. I think the next couple of days, the quicker the water gets away the
less damage there will be over all.

ANNIE GUEST: Because if it's been under water for four days and another cyclone comes on the
weekend and it's under for another three days, from what you're saying, that's it, crop destroyed.

STEPHEN GUAZZO: A lot of that cane will die, yeah, the one that's fully inundated.

ANNIE GUEST: Sugar country runs into banana country closer to Cairns and up there wind damage is
the problem. One farmer lost 80 per cent of his bananas when Cyclone Ellie ripped through with
100km per hour winds on Sunday.

Another grower, Vicky Kippin-O'Connor, says most farmers will lose about 30 per cent of their

VICKY KIPPIN-O'CONNOR: Well it's quite significant because I can tell you our profit margins are
nothing near 25 to 30 per cent (laughs).

ANNIE GUEST: So in combination with the weather problems, damage in the crops and the weather
cutting off roads and stopping the flow of regular transport, how much do you think Sydneysiders
and others elsewhere in Australia will be paying for their bananas down the track?

VICKY KIPPIN-O'CONNOR: Well bananas don't go much about $5. They might go a little bit higher but
it will only be temp... you know only a week or so.

ANNIE GUEST: Some mines are also understood to have been affected by the weather and getting
supplies in by road is another challenge. In western Queensland many graziers are isolated but
delighted that their properties remain inundated by floodwater.

In the north supplies are being flown in or taken by sea route around Cape York Peninsula to gulf
towns like Karumba and Normanton.

While some rivers are peaking or receding, back in the east the 6,000-plus population of Ingham is
starting to tire of days of flooding. About 50 homes are completely inundated, more than a third
have flooded gardens and many have lost services like sewerage.

Peter Sheedy is from the Cane Growers Organisation.

PETER SHEEDY: People are fairly flat after such a prolonged period of inundation.

ANNIE GUEST: The weather bureau's Peter Otto says more rain is possible.

PETER OTTO: It's actually contracted a lot of the weather away from the poor people who have been
hit over the last few days. So Ingham and Townsville have cleared up quite a fair bit overnight. It
still has the potential to form into a cyclone.

ANNIE GUEST: The Queensland Government is encouraging affected residents to apply for disaster