Weather just fine for cane harvest
Prices down but rising sugar levels make growers smile
THIS year’s cane harvest is approaching the sweet spot, the extended dry period when harvesting conditions and sugar content are at their best.
Cold nights and dry weather is putting the sugar level in the cane plant “through the roof”, according to grower Don Murday.
“CCS is increasing at a hell of a rate,” he said.
“I had the harvester last week and I was averaging nearly 13 CCS, which is nearly a unit and a half better than at the same stage last year.”
Mackay Sugar’s weekly harvest update put last week’s CCS at 13.61 and the average to date as 12.45.
By comparison, at the end of September last year, usually the perfect month for the crop, the CCS average was 11.38.
Since growers are paid by commercial cane sugar (CCS), not weight, they love to see elevated CCS levels.
This year these will help counter the lower price for sugar generally.
“We’ve been quite lucky with the weather,” said Mossman Central Mill manager Alan Johnstone, “in that it’s been dry and also quite cool overnight.
“It’s just been cool enough to keep the sugar rising. So we’re hopeful that over the next month or so the CCS will continue to raise, although it won’t get much higher than it is now.
“Some weeks will hit nearly 14, which means the yearly average will be around 13.5 which is much better than last year, which was quite wet.
“A good season average normally is 13.5 or 13.6.”
Higher CCS means the plant has less moisture and therefore tonnages are lower.
That is reflected in estimates and throughput at the mill.
“Right now we’re running at about 94 per cent of estimate, reflecting the sugar content is higher and the weight is dropping.
“That’s probably where we’ll end up for the season,” Mr Johnstone said. “That’s on the coast.”
He said the harvest was proceeding very well and the plant was running above estimate.
“Mind you, a bit of rain would be nice – at night!”
On world markets it was a good week for the sugar price, making gains and breaking through 14c/lb last Thursday. But the near-term price risk is to the downside in recognition of large surplus estimates.
Some weeks will hit nearly 14, which means the yearly average will be around 13.5 which is much better than last year, which was quite wet.
Mill manager Alan Johnstone
Mossman mill general manager Alan Johnstone