Sugar cane burns west of Maryborough amid fears profits from the crush will suffer the same fate.
Sugar cane burns west of Maryborough amid fears profits from the crush will suffer the same fate. Karleila Thomsen Fracanefi

More rain will cost us millions

MARYBOROUGH cane growers already have more than 100,000 tonnes of leftover cane to cut from last year. 

The Fraser Coast sugarcane industry risks losing millions of dollars if rain continues to disrupt the local harvest.

The Maryborough sugar mill expects to crush only 670,000 tonnes this season.

In a good season, the mill processes 800,000 tonnes of cane.

This season's predicted crush would produce about 90,000 tonnes of sugar with a market value of $44 million.

That conservative estimate would fade, along with growers' hopes, if rain continued to throw the harvest into disarray.

>> Weather forecast

Maryborough Canegrowers manager Trevor Turner said rain at harvest time was any grower's enemy.

"If the wet season is bad, there is the potential for local industries to lose millions of dollars," he said.

"If it continues to rain, the heavy machinery we use to harvest will become bogged which, of course, delays the harvesting process."

The marketing mechanism used by many cane growers, usually a safety net, might prove a source of further pain.

Many growers have already pre sold 70% of their crop and if they could not fill their quota they would be out of pocket.

Maryborough's Sugar Factory has crushed 50% more cane to date this year as last season was much wetter.

There were also hopes that if this season's harvest could be brought in, the total tonnage would be up 18% from last season as well.

Maryborough Sugar Factory project agriculturalist Yolande Lambert said growers still had a lot of leftover cane from last season to cut.

"We have over 100,000 tonnes of leftover cane to cut from last year," Ms Lambert said.

"That's on top of the 10,000 hectares of cane left to harvest in the Maryborough district this season.

"We're not panicking now, but if rainfall does continue it could become a big issue for us."

Maryborough farmer Jeff Atkins said he still had leftover cane remaining on his 300-acre farm.

"This year we had approximately 30 to 40% leftover cane remaining in our fields," he said.

"We couldn't harvest it last year due to wet weather, so it's been left for this year's harvest."

While the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a higher-than-average rainfall coming into summer, growers are eager to harvest to prevent wet weather causing more leftover accumulating.

"In the last fortnight we've had a few stoppages due to rain," Mr Atkins said.

"It's not a big financial burden currently; we just don't need any more leftover cane."



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