This past week has seen the Queensland sugarcane industry cross the half-way mark of the 2021 harvest. While some districts have cut more than 50% and some are yet to reach that point, overall we are about 14.6 million tonnes into a crop estimate of 29.4 million tonnes.
Since the cane harvesters fired up, we have navigated quite a range of challenges, so we are hoping the second half of the season is smooth sailing.
COVID-19 lockdowns have been imposed and then lifted in the far north and south and while harvesting and milling were able to continue as an essential industry, some extra procedures and processes had to be put in place to ensure any potential infections within the industry did not spread and cause major disruption.
Mill breakdowns have caused headaches, and continue to do so, in more than one region. When a mill stops, everyone and everything in the harvest and transport chain grinds to a halt too and early in the season nearly every milling company had an issue to deal with.
In the south, the first year of Maryborough contracted sugarcane being delivered to the Isis Mill has thrown up some technical problems around transferring cane from road transport to trains.
And finally, the weather has delivered us some unseasonal curve balls too in the form of heavy rainfall events, turning paddocks too soggy for harvesting machinery.
Given all of these challenges and the growing expectation that a couple of regions may be harvesting right up to Christmas, CANEGROWERS has initiated discussions around the Christmas road curfew.
These meetings are to facilitate cane transport within the period when some of our heavy vehicles and machinery require special permits to access public roads. By talking now, to the Transport and Main Roads Department, Queensland Police Service and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, CANEGROWERS aims to speed up any approval process so we can all get to Christmas knowing the crop has been safely delivered to the mill.
Recently too, CANEGROWERS hosted a mid-season meeting of the cane analysis auditors. Cane analysis is the basis for cane payments, so we want to make sure everything is running smoothly for the valuable people in those roles.
CANEGROWERS ensures the Cane Analysis Program is maintained and we provide expertise to support a sound auditing process in the sugar mills – it’s one of those behind-the-scenes, critical services that ensure growers are paid correctly.
After all, being paid appropriately is what facing all of the harvesting challenges is about and this program, agreed between milling companies and CANEGROWERS, demonstrates the benefits of having transparency that secures the checks and balances for both parties.
We are heading for home now in season 2021. We just need to stay the course and pray there are no more surprises. I thank everyone for their hard work so far and wish the whole industry a headache free second half.