Growers ponder new future as Mackay walks away
FROM PAGE 1 “The message I’m getting from Mackay Sugar is that we pay a $2 a tonne levy to fix up their southern mills or we pay that to buy the [Mossman] mill back. That’s what I read into it.
“Mackay Sugar has agreed to progress the negotiations, using David Williams from Kidder Williams, and it’s a matter of us forming a steering committee of coastal and Tablelands growers to look at the options and do the due diligence.”
He believes Wilmar would not buy the mill. Maybe the Thais (MSF) might be interested, as it would offer synergies with their existing plant at Arriga on the Tablelands.
As for asking price, Mr Murday said “they have told us nothing. But they didn’t pay a lot for it so I expect we wouldn’t have to pay a lot to get it back.”
As for the local growers buying the mill, it represents an opportunity. “A cleaner deal would be to buy the whole mill rather than around half,” Mr Murday said.
“Clearly Mackay Sugar have issues with their bank, and I don’t see much benefit in having a relationship with them going forward if they are already in trouble.
“I think we really need to look to do things totally different here. It’s got to include cogeneration, value adding, sugar, and any other by-products, and I don’t know that with us being associated with Mackay Sugar that would necessarily happen like it needs to.”
Mr Murday said advances in technology offered new options that would both make the mill more efficient but also would expand and transform its role within the community, as it became an energy hub.
Co-gen would involve replacing the aged boilers at the Mill with either a new high pressure boiler or a new technology called cellulose digestion which makes methane gas from which you can generate electricity [see box].
“There are some avenues there which can be explored with the northern development money that is available and also there’s definite interest from the power generators to generate power at this end of the grid.
“With the transmission losses of getting electricity up here from Central Queensland of 30-40 per cent in leakage, it makes a lot of sense to be generating power up this end of the grid.
“So if the Mareeba growers come onboard that guarantees a cane supply, which then makes co-gen possible.”