Close to 200 acres of sugar cane thriving in the cane rich Burdekin region in North Queensland is testament to Bruce and Natasha Davies’ decision to access disaster recovery assistance.
Accessing North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant makes for positive outlook in Burdekin sugar cane industry
A North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure co-contribution grant allowed the family farming enterprise, Front Row Farming Co, to recover years earlier than it otherwise would have following the North and Far North Queensland Monsoon trough event in 2019.
Close to two years since the disaster, Bruce says the enterprise ‘isn’t perfect’ but the grant, administered through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) on behalf of the Australian Government, allowed them to get back to business.
‘We’ve put a big hole in the recovery and we’re operational – that’s the key thing,” he said.
Recovery efforts are focussed on securing viability, maintaining business resilience and replacing lost crops and damaged infrastructure. The North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant allowed them to get to work, drawing down when seasons permitted.
“It’s very helpful to be able to draw down when seasons permit because we can’t do anything in the wet season here,” Bruce said.
“We can’t put down pipelines, we can’t laser level paddocks, we can’t plant cane.
“We’ve been able to manage our cashflow for the 50% for the grant to match.
“Our income comes from production, so we needed to maximise the tonnes of cane we could produce.
“The recovery would have been so much slower without the grant, it could have been five to ten years. We’re back to being operational and the grant has been of great assistance.
“QRIDA has been very quick which has allowed us to do even more.”
Bruce and Natasha were referred to the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant via their accountant and started the application process.
“We’ve had to make sure we have enough money to keep moving, and that’s where QRIDA’s grant has been fantastic. (The grant) has been super helpful replacing some infrastructure,” Bruce said.
“I’m really grateful for how easy QRIDA has made it.”
Bruce said the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-Farm Infrastructure Grant helped pay for repairs to subsidise concrete irrigation lines, plant soy beans to reduce soil salinity and laser level paddocks, as well as repair infrastructure like drains and headlands.
He said it was important to access assistance to help ensure long-term recovery and viability efforts.
“We didn’t want to miss out. It’s a tremendous opportunity so we hooked in,” he said.
“It got us going full steam ahead whereas it would have otherwise taken years to be in this position.
“We’ve had nothing but compliments for the QRIDA staff for their ease of explanation, they have been clear and concise and it’s worked really well. They were extremely helpful and excellent to work with.
“I would get in and get it done. If you can boost your own production you’re crazy not to. I would encourage growers to take advantage of the grant, it’s a no brainer and a tremendous opportunity.
“Look into it, it’s not that hard, it’s not onerous. Once you supply all the information it’s a relatively easy, smooth process to make it happen. We had the disaster and this is a way of fixing it for half the price."
Front Row Farming Co is Bruce and Natasha’s latest venture in the sugar cane industry, drawing on decades of experience from across North Queensland. He says the attraction of the Burdekin is its water.
“If you’re going to grow sugar cane this is the ideal location,” he said.
“The price isn’t cheap but the amount of cane we can get per hectare is attractive, as is the percentage of sugar in the cane.”
He said the future of the cane industry in North Queensland was positive.
“Production here is relatively stable and in 2021 we should be back to where we should be in terms of production,” Bruce said.
“We’ve got a good future, if you want to grow sugar cane this is the place.”
For more information visit the North Queensland Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure Grant webpage.