'Disappointing' end to cane crushing season

Growers had to end their crushing season with cane still in the paddock.
Growers had to end their crushing season with cane still in the paddock. Lee Constable

SUGARCANE growers accessing Plane Creek Mill made a "disappointing" decision on Tuesday, ending their crushing season with cane still in the paddock.

Wet weather was the main culprit, with continued crushing "uneconomical" according to Chairman of Canegrowers Mackay Kevin Borg.

He said there was between 50-60,000 tonnes of cane left in the paddocks, which would've taken about one week to finish crushing.

"It's always disappointing when you have to leave cane in the paddock," Mr Borg said.

"We've got a good price at the moment, close to $600 per tonne of sugar.

"But it wasn't to be as the mill couldn't get constant supply and it becomes uneconomical once you can't get constant supply."

Leftover cane will be "stood over" until the next crushing season in 2017. Mr Borg said this could be risky as it's unknown what the quality will be until it's time to cut.

A total of 1.35 million tonnes of cane was crushed at Plane Creek Mill in the 2016 season, which equalled 95.5% of the year's crop estimates.

2010 was the last time growers were forced to stop crushing, and before that 1998.

Mr Borg said there seemed to be a 10-year cycle for "this type of thing", but this season was different to 2010.

"We didn't do too badly in Plane Creek considering how we started off with the weather," he said.

"It was reasonably wet at the beginning of the season, so that delayed the crush, but then we got into some good harvesting weather.

"If you'd asked anyone back in August if we'd get 95.5 per cent of the crop off, I don't think they would've thought we'd get that far."

The quality of the cane was also a factor in ending the crushing season, as Commercial Cane Sugar (CCS) levels were beginning to drop. CCS is a measure of recoverable sugar in cane and affects the sale price for growers.

While growers accessing Plane Creek were able to crush most of their crops, there were concerns on the mill's performance.

"Mill performance was around the 85% mark at Plane Creek this year," Mr Borg said.

"While that's not too bad, as growers it's still lower than we'd like.

"We'd like it to be 88-90%."

General maintenance of transport systems and milling operations were highlighted as key concerns.

Mr Borg said the three Mackay Sugar mills are still crushing.

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