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Community & Business

24 January, 2024

Farmers look to future after devastating loss

BIBOOHRA citrus growers Giovanni  and Gina Galati face a huge rebuild after the December 2023 floods destroyed more than 60% of their crop.

By Ellie Fink

DEVASTATION: Gina and Giovanni Galati (centre) with their children Guiseppe and Natalia in front of their lime trees, which they cannot harvest due to flooding and price drops.
DEVASTATION: Gina and Giovanni Galati (centre) with their children Guiseppe and Natalia in front of their lime trees, which they cannot harvest due to flooding and price drops.

What was meant to be a perfect season for the farmers has turned into a fight to save their livelihood after severe flooding and a sudden crash in the market turned their lives into a living nightmare. 

In early December last year, the Galati's crop was looking just right – market prices were high, weather was good and they were ready to start picking in the new year. 

But after the flooding following Cyclone Jasper hit the region, they were left devastated with only 30-40% of their crop remaining, including limes, mandarins, grapefruit and pomelos. 

“Before the cyclone, we had a beautiful crop ready to be harvested … the trees were looking really healthy, and we were really looking forward to harvesting in early 2024, but 17 December really changed that all,” Gina said. 

Water rushed in from every direction, completely submerging some parts of the plantation and flooding their packing shed and Giovanni’s parent’s house on the property, causing over a million dollars’ worth of damage. 

While watching the water rise through the security cameras and from their drone, Gina said there were lots of tears shed. 

While cleaning up the damage of the floods in preparation to harvest what they had left, they realised the market price had also dropped significantly and that freight costs had increased by $30 a pallet due to the Palmerston Range closure. 

The family have now decided it is not worth harvesting and will have to rebuild and wait until next season, missing out on income. 

“A few years ago, we could have gotten away with it, but with the increasing cost of everything and the extra $30 for freight … we can’t pass that on, and it’s just another cost we have to absorb,” Gina said. 

The Galati’s have since applied for grants to help them rebuild and have been accepted for some.

Although grateful for the boost, Gina said there was no way they could make up the loss in income. 

“There is assistance out there, with the $1000 one-offs, and QRIDA (Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority) has one that we have applied for, and it helps you out, but how can you put a figure on loss of income?” Gina said. 

“We can claim back a lot of cleaning the trees and fixing of pumps and stuff like that, but how do you put a figure on loss of livelihood – you can’t. Nothing can come close to helping you recover from that.”

Despite the setback, the Galati’s are determined to get themselves back on track, with the whole family, including their teenagers Natalia and Guiseppe, working together to fix the damage. 

They will continue to watch the market in hopes of making some income off the fruit they have left and keep applying for grants to help rebuild damaged irrigation and machinery.

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