Growers can face the 2020 sugarcane season with confidence given the hours of work by their CANEGROWERS staff and elected representatives.
“The harvest is due to start in late May and we are optimistic that it will do so in a way that keeps our people safe and meets government requirements around minimising the spread of COVID-19,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said.
“While good progress has been made on a myriad of contingency and operational issues, there are a few significant ones that remain to be worked through to ensure success.
"One is driver licensing for harvest crews and another is the impact of the rising cost and limited availability of key farm inputs such as fertiliser and chemicals.
“For example, with fewer drivers coming from interstate and New Zealand this year because of coronavirus border controls, the industry needs more local potential truck drivers assessed for an HR licence - but the Queensland Government suspension of in-vehicle assessments is a road-block.
“The Burdekin alone needs around 60 people to go through this process as soon as possible and because of the size of the vehicles involved, we believe we should be able to see an approach that allows for social distancing measures to be put in place and licences issued safely.
“CANEGROWERS is raising the issue in the government-agriculture COVID-19 consultation processes in which we represent the sugarcane industry.
“At the district level, in every sugarcane region, the CANEGROWERS offices and elected representatives are working with mills on issues such as train siding management and cane delivery procedures to ensure safety when mill personnel meet up with harvest and haulout crews."
CANEGROWERS has produced a Sugarcane Farm COVID-19 Guide to help growers manage on farm procedures around workplace hygiene to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading amongst their family, workers and contractors.
“I want to sincerely thank all growers for taking on board the advice, adapting to the uncertainty and changes and doing their bit to help the community as a whole during this pandemic,” Mr Galligan said.
“I also want to pay tribute to the spirit of cooperation among all elements of the Australian sugar supply chain that have helped to keep the industry on schedule – mills, transporters, sugar terminal operators, ports and marketers have come together at the highest level to assess, plan and manage risks.
“It will be this same level of cooperation at the local level that we see year on year that will ensure we can harvest and crush this year’s crop to the benefit of all.”