Queensland’s sugarcane harvest is finally approaching the midway mark. The crop is large and healthy, and the world sugar price is high.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that cane farmers might be rubbing they hands with glee, but in reality, cane growers up and down the coast are wringing their hands with worry.
High sugar prices and a good cane crop are only two of the four essential ingredients required to have a successful cane crush and to realise the crop’s full potential.
Reliable processing of cane and dry weather are also necessary, and unfortunately that is where we are encountering problems.
Widespread rain events early in the season have already delayed this year’s crush and we have been playing catch-up ever since.
Now reports of the imminent return of La Niña, and the resulting wetter than average spring, has growers casting a wary eye to the horizon.
Of course, as growers we can’t control the weather, all we can do is go as hard as possible for as long as possible and try to get as much cane off while the weather is dry.
But this effort is being hampered by mill reliability and workforce shortages in many districts.
We are now well into the fourth month of this year’s crush and one sugar mill, in our most southern growing district of Rocky Point, is yet to fire up.
There is virtually no chance these growers will get their crop fully harvested, which has a huge impact on their livelihoods, not only this year, but also in the years ahead.
Even if the rain doesn’t eventuate, many districts will still be crushing late into December. This is far from ideal as the later it gets in the season, the more we see a decline in the cane’s sugar content.
Essentially, if the cane is not crushed inside the optimal June-November window, the industry loses millions of dollars in revenue.
This can have a particularly devastating impact on small and medium-sized farmers, many of whom are already having to work second jobs off-farm just to make ends meet.
Recently, we released a whole-of-industry roadmap that plots a course for the sugar industry to become a driving force of Queensland’s emerging bioeconomy.
But for this goal to be realised we need to ensure the industry can crush not only the cane we now produce, but the additional cane that will be required to meet the demands of emerging industries.
CANEGROWERS is determined that the sugarcane industry will continue to be a strong and vibrant industry into the future.
We will continue to innovate and grow, all the while supporting communities right along the Queensland coastline. We need to evolve while supporting our very successful existing sugar production supply chain that is the backbone of our profitability.