February 4, 2009 / 7:57 AM / 10 years ago

Australian sugar farmers wait for floods to recede

SYDNEY, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Sugar cane growers in the tropical state of Queensland expect some damage from recent floods, but were waiting on Wednesday for waters to recede to gauge the extent.

Some 17 rivers are in flood and 62 percent or more than 1 million sq kms (386,000 sq miles) of Australia’s second largest state has been declared a natural disaster area.

Industry officials expect some damage that will slightly cut the size of this year’s national sugar cane harvest. Queensland harvested 30 million tonnes out of a 32 million tonnes national harvest last year.

Last year’s harvest produced 4.5 million tonnes of raw sugar of which about 3.3 million tonnes will be exported.

Industry officials reported flooding in portions of the state’s central sugar cane region, centred on the town of Ingham, but conditions in other sugar producing areas were generally favourable.

“Quite large areas around Ingham are flooding but what the damage will be is extremely hard to say,” said Ian Ballantyne, Chief Executive of industry group CaneGrowers.

The Ingham area usually produces about 5 million tonnes of sugar cane annually.

Ballantyne said sugar cane could withstand flooding for a number of days.

“We’re not throwing our arms up yet. We do expect damage to be done in Ingham but beyond that we’re not expecting are great deal of damage,” he said.

“I would expect the overall crop to be a little bit less than last year but by how much I really don’t know as it is a long way to go to the harvest in November.”

Doug Whitehead, a soft commodity analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, said it was too early to assess whether crop forecasts would be altered, though he said fortunately the flooding had occurred between harvests. (Reporting by Bruce Hextall; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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