Sugarcane season 'off to a good start'

CRUSHING began at the Broadwater sugar mill last week, with about 260 tonnes of sugarcane being crushed every hour around the clock.

President of the Richmond River Cane Growers Association, Wayne Rodgers, said the season was off to a good start.

Dry weather and no breakdowns at the mill had the industry feeling more optimistic about the season ahead, he said.

“The season looks like it will be a ripper and there is more cane there than we estimated,” Mr Rodgers said.

Widespread flooding last year had devastated much of the planting.

This year the sugar quality also was good.

“The weather and harvesting conditions has an impact on sugar quality and all that's been good, so far,” Mr Rodgers said.

However, hopes that the State Government would provide financial assistance for an ambitious replanting program have been dashed.

As much as 6000 hectares of cane needs to be planted in the aftermath of flooding to avoid shortfalls next year.

Representatives of the industry, along with MPs Thomas George, Steve Cansdell, Don Page and Geoff Provest, met with the Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson on Wednesday to ask for financial assistance to replant.

“The Minister was sympathetic but said there was no money in the coffers,” Mr Rodgers said.

The sugar industry was hoping the State Government would fund one third of the $10.5 million replanting program, with another third coming from the Federal Government and the remainder from the industry.

Representatives will meet with Janelle Saffin on July 12 to see if there is any possibility of Federal assistance.

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