Cane race heats up as crushing season ends
THE race is on to harvest the last paddocks of standing cane before the mill shuts down for the season.
The mill hopes to close its doors on Saturday, about a month behind schedule.
In the purple patch of dry(ish) weather lately, farmers have been flat out trying to harvest as much cane as possible before the sugar content drops any further.
Those with access to tracked harvesters are making progress in boggy paddocks, but some may be left standing for the first time in decades.
“There could be one or two very wet blocks up at the Daintree,” Mossman Central Mill general manager Alan Johnstone said.
“If it continues dry, though, we might be able to get the whole lot.”
While the final crush will probably only come in 20,000 tonnes under the initial estimate of 550,000, the constant soaking the crop has received over the ’dry’ season has knocked a couple of points of the sugar content of cane currently going through the mill.
Drew Watson reckons he will probably harvest all his cane, as long as the rains hold until the end of the week, but is already focusing on next year.
“It’s been a season to forget,” the Canegrowers Mossman board member said.
“It had the potential to be very good, with a good price.
“The CCS is two units under, so the price we get is down about $8/tonne.
The Commercial Content of Sugar passing through the mill in the week to Monday, November 8 was 9.6, down from 12 earlier in the season.
“It’s been a very trying season, one of the worst in at least 30 years,” Mr Johnstone said. “We didn’t have a winter. “It’s been too warm and wet, so the sugar’s just not there.
“We must have lost four weeks due to the wet weather, and when we get stuck into the off-season maintenance there’s going to be some wet weather damage to repair.”
While the mill sold most of the crop at a good price, the lower CCS means less in farmers’ pockets.
Mr Watson said he won’t be buying a new harvester any time soon.
“I was hoping to make a few bob so I could give it to the ag machinery boys,” he said.
“We’re not broke, but it’s not the bonanza we were hoping for.
“It doesn’t help when the bank manager’s looking over the fence.”
As the season winds down, farmers are looking ahead, ever hopeful of a bumper crop next year.
“We didn’t get to plant as much as we wanted to, and some of what we planted got waterlogged and died,” Mr Watson said.
“We desperately need it to be fine through Christmas.”