Cane race heats up as crush­ing sea­son ends

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

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.”

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