Sweet start to cane season for Northern Rivers farmers
FOR the first time in a long time, fifth generation Northern Rivers cane farmers Wayne and Craig Rodgers had something sweet to look forward to when cane crushing season rolled into gear.
After seven years of havoc wreaked by flood and frost, forecasts are in for a bumper season.
"Certainly the last few years have severely impacted the grower's cash flow," Wayne Rodgers said.
"We've had a very wet period since 2007. And in 2007 the industry was impacted by frosts, by extremely cold weather and from then until 2011 we had very uncharacteristic wet years.
"This will be the year we start to recover."
NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative CEO Chris Connors said the last seven years had been disappointing, with only 900,000 to 1.5 million tonnes of cane crushed per season.
"The growers have been through floods, frosts, and rainfall events that have tested their sustainability," he said. "The 2011 season in which only 910k tonnes of cane was crushed was probably the worst in living memory. It is a testimony to growers' resilience that after seven years of extreme weather we are now looking at a crop that is getting towards our best output."
The only bitterness in the boon is that world sugar prices have dropped significantly in the past 12 months.
Mr Connors said low sugar prices, along with Wilmar's importation of subsidised raw sugar into the domestic market would flow through to the price being paid to growers.
"Our Australian growers-owned company is now the only sugar grower/miller/refinery which is 100% sustainably certified under the Bonsucro system," he said.
"It is a pity they have to be subject to the pricing pressures with no government support, particularly when you look at tariffs, government subsidies and support systems that are in place for our competitors."
Mr Rodgers said dry weather, which is expected this year, tended to produce more sugar cane on the Northern Rivers providing there were no significant frost events.
"The crop we're harvesting now, and the next crop, look exceptional and it will depend now on the weather," he said.
Broadwater Mill: Expected to crush 839,000 tonne of cane from June 9.
Harwood Mill: Expected to crush 745,000 tonne of cane from June 9.
Condong Mill: Expected to crush 550,000 tonne of cane from June 22.
Total: 2.13 million tonne of cane expected this season.
For the past seven years, the cane crush has been between 900,000 and 1.5 million tonne.