This is an exciting, busy and nerve-wracking time for sugarcane growers and the coastal sugar regions from Mossman to the Gold Coast.
Within weeks, all of Queensland’s 19 sugar mills will be operating and for the next five months or so will be processing our sugarcane.
This year the pre-season estimate is for a bigger crop than last year thanks to soaking summer and autumn rain. Around 30 million tonnes are expected to be cut, transported and crushed to make sugar.
If you’ve seen a cane train heading to a sugar mill, imagine the crop chopped into billets and filling three million cane train wagons. That’s a very long train!
Getting to this point this year has been a challenge. Flooding and storms have taken a toll on the crop in some areas and damage will make harvesting difficult.
We’ll keep a wary eye on the weather right through to December. Further rain could seriously disrupt harvesting if the ground gets too wet for machinery to move through without causing too much damage.
We have struggled, along with other agricultural industries, to fill all the jobs in harvesting crews. CANEGROWERS, along with the harvesting contractors, has promoted the opportunities and we have had some success including reaching out to farm regions interstate where this time of year is quieter to lure people to the tropics for winter.
We are grateful to everyone who is hopping into the driver’s seat of a harvester or haulout – whether it’s their first cane season or they’ve been doing it for years. It is a big community effort to get the job done.
In some regions there are still vacancies so it you’re interested, please take a look at the CANEGROWERS website.
The milling companies have also had challenges filling all of their roles for the season and I want to give a shout out to the hundreds of people working in the sugar mills.
As growers we want the mills to run as quickly and efficiently as possible – mid-June to mid-November is the preferred crushing period when the cane is at its best. We look forward to achieving this every year as any breakdowns or unscheduled stoppages can extend the length of the season and the longer it drags on, the more it affects the bottom lines of everyone in the industry.
To cut and move 30 million tonnes of cane safely, we also need everyone’s vigilance and patience.
If you’re on the roads in sugarcane regions, please keep a look out for cane trains and trucks. There could also be harvesters, tractors and other machinery moving along or crossing roads to go from farm to farm. Trying to save a few seconds of travel time by risking your life with one of these big vehicles, carrying tonnes and tonnes of sugarcane is definitely not worth it.
Here’s hoping for sunny and dry weather to keep the harvesters moving and mills crushing!