Talks on Moss­man mill deal ride the slow train

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Shane Ni­chols

LO­CAL canegrowers are not very far ad­vanced in their ne­go­ti­a­tions with Mackay Sugar over the pro­posed sale of Moss­man Cen­tral Mill.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal Canegrowers group rep­re­sen­ta­tive Drew Wat­son, grower groups have been in­volved in the slow progress of con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments with the com­pany, be­fore the ac­tual talks about any deal can be­gin.

“When we do get to talk to them we do need to gain some sort of res­o­lu­tion,” Mr Wat­son said.

“But I can un­der­stand that their fo­cus is prob­a­bly not us at the mo­ment, it is prob­a­bly on their own prob­lems in Mackay and we have prob­a­bly been put a lit­tle bit to the side for now.

“In the long term we need to sort it out, and we need to keep our doors open.”

He re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of the Tableland grow­ers to the fu­ture of Moss­man Cen­tral Mill.

Next March, the Table­lands grow­ers can give two years no­tice if they wish to walk away from the cur­rent agree­ment.

It is vi­tal for Moss­man that the Table­lands ton­nage con­tin­ues to go to Moss­man.

“If the Tableland grow­ers don’t roll over the agree­ment and sign with an­other mill, that’s go­ing to make op­er­a­tions very dif­fi­cult for Moss­man,” Mr Wat­son said.

“We need their through­put. When we were without it be­fore, we were sup­port­ing the mill at $2 a tonne.”

En­cour­ag­ingly for the coastal grow­ers, the Table­landers are keen to re­main with Moss­man.

“They’re very keen to stay, and they’re try­ing to make it hap­pen.

“They are a very united group and are very strong.

“That’s the en­cour­ag­ing bit as far as we are con­cerned.”

He said “an­other curve­ball” in the equa­tion is that the next Table­lands crop would be down, be­cause of the lack of wa­ter.

The coastal cane crop, how­ever, is look­ing pretty good.

“We dodged a bul­let when that rain missed us the other day,” he said. “It’s dry­ing out quite nicely here.

“I’d ex­pect that this year we will re­turn to the av­er­age CCS level, around a unit higher, than it was last year.

“The av­er­age is around 12.5, but we were down to 11 last year. It’s pos­si­ble.”

The sugar price has weak­ened some­what lately.

Last year the price got up to $560 or bet­ter but grow­ers will get be­tween $490 and $530 a tonne of sugar, de­pend­ing on how they man­aged their fu­tures.

Lo­cal Canegrowers group rep­re­sen­ta­tive Drew Wat­son

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