Cane harvest 'best in years'
CANE growers in the Clarence Valley have ended this year's harvest season on time and on a high, setting the scene for an even stronger year ahead for growers.
The season's success has been a marked improvement on previous years, and Clarence River Cane Growers Association chairman Ross Farlow said he thought the harvest was probably the best in a decade.
With about 40,000 hectares of his own to clear, Mr Farlow still had the harvester going on the last day of the season, but scraped in just in time.
"Finishing on the last day of the season, a great place to be," he said.
"Sugar content is above our five-year average, and tonnages per hectare are at the top end of our five-year average so returns have been pretty good.
"Couple that with strong prices, and there's no other industry you'd want to be in at the present time in the Valley.
"If you're in agriculture, sugar industry is the one to be in. Our future is looking very strong."
According to Sunshine Sugar, Clarence River growers provided the Harwood sugar mill with almost 700,000 tonnes of cane this year.
All growing areas reported minimal disruption to operations throughout the season and had CCS or sugar content up on forecasts, with the mill confirming sugar content was at its strongest in three years.
But while the harvesters may be indulging in a celebratory beer at the pub, local farmers still have a substantial amount of work to do and have been busy sowing new crops.
Now, they are looking to the heavens for a decent downpour.
"All we need now is a shower to kick things along; some rain for farmers planting soybeans would be great," Mr Farlow said.
"That planting window is pretty well upon us and the last heavy falls of rain were in late August," he said.
"We've only had intermittent rain since then, which made for a very successful finish to the three to four months of harvest, but all people on the land need some rain right now."
NSW Cane Growers' Association executive officer Pat Battersby agreed substantial rain would be the icing on the cake.
"Not only for the sugar industry but the fishing industry too - drought on land means drought in the water," Mr Battersby said.
"All farming industries in the Clarence need some substantial rain, and right now would be the best time," he said.
Mr Battersby added the results of this year's season had proved the industry was still "extremely viable".
"Some of our existing cane land been targeted by prospective macadamia growers so we've lost quite a few farms to that, but at the end of the day the cane economy is doing quite well," he said.
"With the initiatives we've had in the industry in regards to diversification and value-adding, it's really pushed our industry along."