Regular rainfall has made it difficult for sugarcane farmers to burn their crops in preparation for harvest.
Regular rainfall has made it difficult for sugarcane farmers to burn their crops in preparation for harvest.

Sugar cane growers struggling

WHILE the world sugar price soars, cane growers on the Richmond River are still struggling to harvest this year’s crop and encountering difficulties in getting new crops planted.

“It is very ironic that we have a much smaller crop at a time when everything has come good in terms of price,” Richmond River Cane Growers Association manager Andrew Tickle said.

“The price is the best it has been in many years.”

Since the removal of the cap and collar pricing system – which protected growers from low prices, but stopped them from cashing in on high prices – growers should be reaping the benefits of the high sugar price.

Normally the Broadwater mill processes about one million tonnes of sugar cane each year.

However, this year, it will process about 650,000 tonnes due to a shortage from previous bad seasons.

“The frost in 2007 was the worst frost in living memory,” Mr Tickle said.

Since then, there had been long and wet seasons, which affected yield, as well as numerous breakdowns at the mill.

Despite the challenges, Mr Tickle said he still felt positive about the future of the industry, saying he expected prices of more than $30 per tonne to continue for at least the next two years.

The immediate problem facing growers at this time was still the weather.

“If they can light their fires they can get the cane off,” Mr Tickle said.

Sugar cane must be burned before harvest to remove trash, but recent rains have seen harvesting stop, start and stop again.

Another issue for farmers is the planting of the 2012 crop, which needs to be completed before the end of this month.

Mr Tickle said early plantings were lost due to the rain, although most farmers had not planted at the time.

National Australia Bank has doubled its forecast for China’s sugar imports to two million tonnes in 2010-11 as early import pace has continued to outstrip previous levels.


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