Third generation banana grower Tony Camuglia is continuing his family’s farming legacy despite setbacks from multiple natural disasters, thanks to financial assistance administered by QRIDA.
Continuing the family legacy after Tropical Cyclone Niran
Tony’s family has been farming in Far North Queensland for 100 years, and growing bananas since 1995. Camuglia Farms and their banana packing shed “Fresh Yellow” is in Boogan near Innisfail.
Being in this location, Tony says his farm has always been prone to extreme wind.
“100% of our farm was damaged in Cyclone Larry, and 100% in Cyclone Yasi.”
With this experience under his belt, when strong winds started on 1 March 2021, he immediately knew something wasn’t right.
“It almost felt like a mini tornado,” he said.
“I left in the morning to go to Cairns, and I spoke to my son Charles before I left. I drove past the packing shed on my way and said to him, “Mate, this wind is getting very strong, and there’s a few trees starting to go behind the packing shed.”
“I don’t like the look of this.”
When Tony arrived in Cairns, he rang Charles to see how the farm was doing. His son delivered the heartbreaking news.
“Dad, we’ve got 50% of the farm on the ground,” Charles responded.
By 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the Camuglia’s 125 hectares of bananas were destroyed.
“When I got home, there were so many hard visions to look at. The reminders were coming back, it was just too close to what happened with Larry and Yasi. It was very confronting.”
Tony says the clean-up following the winds from Tropical Cyclone Niran took months. Knowing he’d need financial assistance, he turned to QRIDA. Having accessed disaster recovery assistance through QRIDA after Cyclone Larry and Yasi, he says going to QRIDA again was a “no-brainer”.
Camuglia Farms received a $75,000 Extraordinary Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant with the help of QRIDA’s Far North Regional Area Manager, Sam Spina.
“I can only talk highly of Sam. I’ve known Sam for a long time, he’s a straight shooter and he’ll always help you. He’s got very good local knowledge and when Sam says something or puts his name to something, I think there’s no-one up here better for QRIDA than Sam Spina.
“Throughout the entire application process, if there were ever any doubts, QRIDA was always on-hand and I thank them for that.”
Tony says the grant has been invaluable in helping them get back on their feet.
“If you’re affected like we were, you’ve got to seek assistance no matter how big or small you are. It goes a long way to helping you recover by having that financial assistance.
“Without the grant funding, it would have been disastrous.”
Now nearly eight months on from the disaster, Tony says his banana trees are looking good, despite full production still being a long way off.
“The trees are never the same. Until you replant, you don’t really see the benefit. But by the end of next year, we should see full production.”
Despite the challenges that life on the farm presents, Tony is resilient and continues to look forward, keeping his son and grandson’s futures front-of-mind.
“Looking back, we wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m looking forward to making sure there’s something here for the younger generation. Without the disaster assistance and grants, we couldn’t do that. But that’s what it’s about, it’s about the up-and-coming farmers.
“We’re going to do the best we can and revive. We’ve been through it before, and hopefully we can come out the other end.”
To find out more about QRIDA’s disaster assistance, visit QRIDA Disaster Recovery.
QRIDA administers financial assistance to disaster affected primary producers, businesses and non-profit organisations under the joint Commonwealth / Queensland Government funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.