Robert Quirk examines his cane crop.
Robert Quirk examines his cane crop. JOHN GASS

Rain cuts sugar cane productivity

ON a sunny day Robert Quirk’s farm can churn through 1000t of cane, but on a wet day like yesterday productivity can drop by half.

“Out of eight machines we have two working today,” third-generation cane farmer Robert Quirk said as we trudged through mud.

From seedlings pushed into the ground to cutting, the whole process takes about 12 months, and farming the land for 50 years Mr Quirk said a lot had changed.

His family has been on the land since 1905 and now two brothers run the 126h farm.

“We have 26 varieties of cane available on the Tweed and we can cut it about four times before we have to plant again,” he said.

“So we don’t have a monoculture, we plant soya beans once the cane is finished and that will go for 12 months then we plant cane again.”

Mr Quirk will travel to Indonesia today to inspect cane farms to help Indonesian farmers increase productivity.

If rain continues the Tweed, Richmond and Clarence farmers will have to share mill capacity to survive.


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