Christmas is just around the corner, and we are all looking forward to enjoying quality time with friends and family.
December-January is usually a quiet period in the sugar industry. The crush is complete, planting has finished, and growers get to kick back and take it easy for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, 2022 has not been a usual year. Of Queensland’s 19 sugar mills, just four have completed crushing and, as of mid-December, we still had almost three million tonnes of cane in the paddock waiting to be harvested.
In some districts the crush may even extend to the end of January, which is unprecedented.
For those outside the industry, a few extra weeks of harvesting may not seem like a big deal. The problem is, the further we get from the optimal finish date in November, the more the sugar content of the cane reduces, until it eventually costs more to harvest than it’s worth, leaving growers working at a loss.
That is the situation we are approaching now for many growers across the industry. It is both frustrating and concerning, especially given the rising costs of farm inputs.
Several factors have contributed to this unfortunate situation. Some are out of our control, like the weather and crop size, while others we can influence, such as poor mill performance.
Another issue that has caused major disruptions this year, over which we can have some influence, is workforce shortages.
Whether it is mill workers, truck drivers, haulout drivers, harvester operators, agronomists, researchers, administration staff, or policy advisors, there are many opportunities for employment in the sugar industry.
The career choices available are diverse and varied and located not only in the paddocks of Queensland’s cane-growing regions, but also in our regional towns and even in Brisbane.
CANEGROWERS has been working closely with the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia to develop curriculum-aligned education resources that teachers can use to educate students about the industry and the opportunities available.
But it is not just students who can have a future in the industry. Workers wanting a change of career may also find the industry a perfect fit for their skillset. Even retirees and grey nomads looking for seasonal work to supplement their retirement incomes may find opportunities open to them.
The point is, if you are reading this and you are considering your career prospects in 2023, why not look at what the sugar industry has to offer.
It is a time of change and evolution within the industry, so there has never been a more exciting time to get on board.
I would like to wish all readers a safe and happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Please take care when on the roads over the festive season. Harvesting crews are still hard at work, meaning large farm machinery will be out and about on the road this Christmas.