Ross Farlow (front) and Bruce Ellem planting cane on Alan Cameron's farm.
Ross Farlow (front) and Bruce Ellem planting cane on Alan Cameron's farm. Adam Hourigan

Sugar growers show confidence with record plantings

AFTER a string of disastrous seasons, NSW sugar growers have shown apparent faith in the industry with record plantings.

ABC Radio reported earlier this month that the Harwood sugar mill had experienced its smallest harvest in close to 60 years, the result of successive floods in planting seasons that prevented growers getting plant in the ground or for ratooned cane to get the work it needed.

But the industry appears to have turned a corner, with record planting in the three NSW mill districts.

The NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative said more than 5000 hectares of cane had been planted since the start of August this year and there was every likelihood this would increase 7000 hectares if favourable weather continued.

New South Wales Canegrowers chairman, Wayne Rogers, said growers were showing a lot of confidence in the industry given the terrible seasons they had been through.

"The 2012 season is historically one of our worst for 40 years with less than a million tonnes cut across all three rivers," he said.

"With the record planting undertaken there is every reason to believe we will be back at the 2 million tonne mark within a couple of years. Plantings at this level are unheard of."

Co-op chairman Ian Causley said growers should be congratulated on the "impressive" plantings".

"This should ensure production into the future, vital for long-term security," the former NSW agriculture minister said.

"This is the longest continuous period of wet weather I can remember.

"While the results have certainly been felt in the 2011/2012 season, there is no doubt what has happened in the field with plantings this year and, for that matter last year, with a little bit of favourable weather we are heading back to far better throughputs.

"It is also fortunate the co-operative is seeing great results out of our refinery which is underpinning the business and the industry.

The co-op will hold its AGM at the end of the month, and Mr Rogers said the main project was a business restructure and a new possible new business partner.

"We have been very clear on the outcomes we have been looking for in delivering sustainability for our growers and we are in the final processes of selecting the right partner," he said.

He said he had been involved closely in the process and there was strong support from the organisation in the direction the board was moving.

"At the end of the day the growers will decide and we are very cognisant that we need to ensure that any proposal looks to deliver a future for our growers and their families," he said.

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