Sweet success: Wayne Rodgers, president of the Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association, holds high hopes for the future of the local sugarcane industry.
Sweet success: Wayne Rodgers, president of the Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association, holds high hopes for the future of the local sugarcane industry. Doug Eaton

High hopes for sugarcane industry

THE yields may be low, but hopes are high for the future of the Northern Rivers sugarcane industry.

Next month harvesting gets under way. However, for many growers, 2010 has been a pretty ‘average’ year, according to Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association president Wayne Rodgers.

“It’s been caused by a number of seasonal conditions,” Mr Rodgers said.

“The industry still hasn’t recovered from the 2007 frost, and also the flood.”

Mr Rodgers expects his 405ha farm will yield about 24,000 tonnes of cane, down from last year’s yield of 30,000 tonnes.

The NSW Sugar MillingCo-operative’s Broadwater mill expects to crush 670,000 tonnes, down from a high of 1.1 million in recent years.

Despite the poor expectations for this season, Mr Rodgers said the long-term future for the industry looked bright.

Since the co-operative restructured its cap and colour pricing system, which locked growers into a maximum of $375 per tonne, the earning potential had opened up, he said.

Mr Rodgers said sugar prices were good and farmers would soon be paid $480 a tonne for last year’s crop.

Mr Rodgers, a fifth generation sugarcane grower, said he had no plans to quit the industry any time soon.

“There are very few primary industries as stable as sugar,” he said.

Sugarcane grows for two years and is then harvested.

It is then regrown for another two years before being harvested again and ploughed in, which is why some Northern Rivers farmers are still suffering from the effects of a severe frost three years ago.



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