A strong season has mungbean farmers bean counting

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As prices soar, farmers are finding favour with growing mungbeans. But like most produce, growing this ancient legume can be a boom-and-bust enterprise, Col Jackson writes

A strong season has mungbean farmers bean counting
Last year Monto farmer Bill Robertson planted 300 acres of mungbeans. The prices were good but he lost 50 percent of the crop to Cyclone Marcia

The Australian Mungbean Association was anticipating in 2015 to exceed the Mungbean industry’s long-standing target of 100,000 tonnes, on its way to achieving 170,000 tonnes within five years.

The 2015 crop was expected to average between $1,200 and $1,300 per tonne due to a severe drought in northern China, a major producer, and delayed monsoon in Burma and India that stifled production.

The Australian crop is exported to the UK, USA, Canada, India and throughout Asia, especially China.

In the Monto and Biloela area of Queensland, the mungbean crops were lush and farmers were looking forward to a bumper harvest and high prices.

Then came Cyclone Marcia that crossed the coast near Rockhampton and travelled inland.

It brought widespread flooding to Biloela after the gates of the Callide Dam opened automatically. Monto was saturated by 14 inches of rain.

One farmer who lost half of his mungbean crop was Bill Robertson, who had been the Toyota dealer in Gladstone from 1973 until his retirement in 2004.

He had been a member of the Gladstone Harbour Board for about five years, had one term on the TAFE College Board, and was involved on the Gladstone Tourism Development Board and Rotary.

Once out of the motor industry, that had been his life for 31 years, Bill yearned to realise a life-long ambition to try farming, and with his wife, Liz, bought a neglected farm near Monto.

For the next nine years he worked and developed the property of 360 acres, with 70 acres under cultivation.

"We only came for five years," says Liz, who has become heavily involved in the community as president of Monto Magic Tourism Action Group.

They then sold that farm and purchased Twin Creeks farm with 400 acres of cultivation and bush.

Last year Bill planted 300 acres of mungbeans in three stages — and then the rains came.

The first crop was ready for harvest, and suffered the most damage after the massive fall.

The other two crops suffered some damage, but not as bad as the first.

"There was some flooding," Bill says, "but it was the rain that did the most damage.

"Yes, the prices were good, and I lost 50 per cent of the crop; in monetary terms it is equivalent to about $100,000.

"It’s sad, but you’ve just got to keep going and get ready for the next crop," he says, while admitting he has no intention of slowing down at the moment.

Amid all the devastation of saturated crops and ruined fencing, Bill reckons he is far from being the worst affected.

"It was very bad for some farmers," he says.

"We are relatively lucky compared to some; the bloke next door had water through his house."

The subsequent flooding flattened or washed away about four kilometres of fencing on Twin Creeks, which was essential to containing 80 breeding cows in his commercial herd.

Read Col's full report on Mungbean farming in issue 25 of New Farm Machinery Magazine on sale July 20.

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