It?s not so sweet


THE Harwood sugar mill has been shut down, just a day after the start of the 2005 cane-crushing season.

After minor mechanical problems at the mill at the start of the crush on Tuesday, a new and innovative piece of equipment known as a de-watering mill suffered a total breakdown on Wednesday and will be bypassed for the rest of the season.

The new Harwood equipment is a first for the industry. Its job is to reduce moisture in the bagasse to provide better fuel for the boiler and recover more sugar.

Mill operations manager Peter Dibella said the cane-crushing season got off to a bad start this week because of equipment problems he described as hiccups, costing about 18 hours in lost production.

Now the failure of the new equipment has closed the mill down while engineers work around-the-clock to dismantle the de-watering mill so crushing can continue as normal.

"At this stage I would say the mill will be up and running again sometime over the week- end," Mr Dibella said yesterday.

"About 2000 tonnes of cut cane has bypassed the Harwood mill and has been sent to Broadwater for processing.

"We won't be running the dewatering mill for the rest of the season, which is disappointing because it is unique equipment and the whole industry was looking at the Harwood mill to see how it performed.

"Our main priority now is to get the crushing done."

Mr Dibella said the Harwood mill was confident of meeting the needs of members this season despite the rough start.

"We are confident we'll gain processing time over the next couple of months to ensure growers needs are met," Mr Dibella said.

The mechanical problems at the Harwood mill follow predictions of a downturn in cane crushing predictions for the 2005 season.

The crush is likely to be between 670,000 and 720,000, tonnes well down on the record 912,000 harvested in 1999.

Dry weather since February has played a big part in the downturn, but other factors like land values are also having an effect.

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