The 2023 sugarcane crush is officially underway, with cane harvesters firing up across far north Queensland this week.
The Tableland and Tully mills kicked off crushing operations, with the remainder of Queensland’s 19 sugar mills expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Latest estimates put the crop at just over 30 million tonnes of cane, producing between 4 and 4.5 million tonnes of sugar, the majority of which will be exported to overseas markets in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia.
Growers are optimistic heading into the harvest, and while it is very early days and I’m loath to jinx it, this season is already looking much better than 2022.
Last year’s crush came to a halt almost as soon as it began, with heavy rain across much of the state making paddocks too wet to work.
That false start was exacerbated by workforce shortages and poor mill performance in some districts, which resulted in unprecedented delays that saw crushing continue through Christmas and well into the new year in some areas, and more than one million tonnes of cane left unharvested.
This year’s harvest, by contrast, commenced under clear blue skies and in cool conditions. The perfect weather for cutting and crushing cane.
Add to this the skyrocketing sugar price and falling input prices, and it’s no wonder growers are feeling buoyant.
However, the past has taught us to temper our expectations. There is a long way to go, and it remains to be seen whether mills have had enough time to carry out all the necessary repairs and maintenance work during the quick turnaround from last year’s crush.
I’d like to wish everyone participating in this year’s harvest – growers, harvesting contractors, and mill workers – a safe and successful 2023 season.
I’d also like to remind readers that they will be seeing a lot more cane trains and large farming machinery on the roads over the next six months, so please be vigilant and stay safe on our roads.
I’ve been out and about a lot over the past few weeks, visiting cane-growing districts and speaking to local growers about the problems they face and the work CANEGROWERS is doing to increase grower profitability, while also decreasing costs, cutting red tape, and ensuring the vitality of the industry for many years to come.
There is a very positive feeling around at the minute, with the industry on the verge of a transition to a range of new and growing opportunities in the bioeconomy that rely upon sugarcane for feedstock.
The export of raw sugar will always be the foundation of our industry, but we know there are many other complimentary opportunities that are emerging for the industry and we hope that this coming season, combined with a strong price, will provide the basis for new and increased investment into these exciting projects.