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Farms may take a decade to recover from Oswald floods

WASHED AWAY: Kalbar farmer Ed Windley with a field sweet corn ruined by the wild weather earlier this week.
WASHED AWAY: Kalbar farmer Ed Windley with a field sweet corn ruined by the wild weather earlier this week. Rob Williams

IT will take up to 10 years for vegetable producers in the Fassifern Valley to recover after a sea of water devastated farms earlier this week.

Crops were not only destroyed but metres of fertile top soil washed away, with losses and repair bills expected to cost farmers millions of dollars in the Scenic Rim alone.

AusVeg chairman and Scenic Rim mayor John Brent said vegetable prices were likely to rise due to disruption to supply in southeast Queensland, particularly in the Fassifern Valley where most of the winter vegetables for Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are produced.

"Tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and green beans in particular have been worst hit," Cr Brent said. "There won't be an immediate impact - not until late March through to July - but there's no doubt prices in Queensland production will increase."

There won't be an immediate impact - not until late March through to July - but there's no doubt prices in Queensland production will increase.

Kalbar farmer Ed Windley's crops were engulfed by water waist-deep in height on Monday. His 220-acre farm backs onto the Warrill Creek, which swelled from the record spill from Moogerah Dam.

"The crop losses are between $70,000 to $90,000, then you've another $40,000 to $50,000 worth of earthworks to fix this," he said.

Mr Windley lost half of his sweet corn crop, which was due to be harvested in two weeks. But he remained optimistic, saying some nearby growers copped eight feet of water on their fields.

Robert Hinrichsen co-owner and agricultural director of Kalfresh, one of Queensland's largest vegetable producers, described the flood damage to Kalbar farms as "catastrophic".

"The impact on soil degradation will almost be multi-generational," he said.

"We have 40-acre blocks with no top soil and that will take 10 years to repair."

The impact on soil degradation will almost be multi-generational. We have 40-acre blocks with no top soil and that will take 10 years to repair.

Mr Hinrichsen, who owns 500 acres of farming land in Kalbar, said every one of his growers in the area was affected.

"In 2011, the flood broke the levy banks and washed the top soil down the bank. This time water poured over the levy bank for 18 hours straight. On top of that, Moogerah Dam hit a record height of four metres above capacity," he said.

"We've lost some sites, infrastructure, underground mains have been washed out and fences lost.

"We didn't have a lot of crops in but the ground was ready to plant. It was in fine condition."

Cr Brent said fruit and vegetable production in the Lockyer Valley had also been severely hit, but not as bad as in 2011.

He added: "I ask consumers to buy as many fruit and vegetables as they can to support our local growers. They need to recognise growers need to receive cost of production plus margin to be able to continue to grow."

I ask consumers to buy as many fruit and vegetables as they can to support our local growers.

Topics:  ausveg, crop damage, ex-tropical cyclone oswald, farming, fassifern valley, mayor john brent, scenic rim, top soil, vegetable prices


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