Costs of the big wet

Townsville Bulletin - - News - re­gional edi­tor John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

AS clouds gath­ered and thun­der rum­bled in the Bur­dekin skies yes­ter­day, anx­ious farm­ers look­ing to the heav­ens for an­swers, were left to pon­der more ques­tions.

If one of them was: ‘‘ When is the rain go­ing to stop?’’

The an­swer could only be: ‘‘ When some­one turns off the tap.’’

There is no joy out there in sug­ar­cane land. It has been a joy­less place since the rain swamped the 2010 har­vest, forc­ing the Bur­dekin to leave three mil­lion tonnes of cane val­ued at $ 150 mil­lion be­hind in the pad­dock. That cane is still there and the plan at year’s end was that it would be cut this year. With rain still stalk­ing the Bur­dekin in a wet sea­son that will find a per­ma­nent home in the record books, farm­ers can only hope that they get a break and that the stando v e r c r o p c a n b e p u t through the mills this year.

Pi­o­neer Cane­grow­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion chair­man Dean Sgroi said hav­ing had wet weather up un­til the tail end of March and with more rain fore­cast through to the end of the month, there was not a lot of room left for op­ti­mism.

‘‘ Even if it stopped rain­ing to­day, we’d still only have a dry pe­riod of nine or 10 weeks be­fore the har­vest was due to start. That might be enough to get us over the line, but with the weather the way it’s been, I’d be sur­prised if that’s the way it pans out,’’ he said yes­ter­day.

‘‘ If we have an­other year like last year, we could have to leave stand-over cane cane in the pad­dock again. That’s what peo­ple are talk­ing about,’’ he said.

He said there were con­cerns about the sugar con- tent of the stand-over cane. Com­pound­ing this was the worry that with so much cloud cover over the re­gion since the end of har­vest last year, the crop, young cane in­cluded, has lacked the s u n s h i n e i t n e e d s f o r growth and good health.

Re c e n t l y r e t i r e d Gi r u farmer Os­car Giardino has farmed in the Bur­dekin for more than 40 years. He’s never known a wet sea­son like this.

‘‘ The worry now is more rain. You can’t do any­thing about that. The im­por­tant thing is to get the cane out, but you can’t if it is too wet,’’ he said.

He said his son Peter, who has taken over his farm, only man­aged to cut half his crop last year.

‘‘ He had to stand half of it over. I’ve never seen any­thing like this. It’s a huge worry. Ev­ery­one will be wor­ried,’’ Mr Giardino said.

He said start­ing the crush early to take ad­van­tage of favourable weather con­di­tions would only work if the stand-over cane was cut first. Mr Giardino said the s u g a r c o n t e n t i n t h e younger cane would be too low and too un­prof­itable to har­vest if cut early and if the Bur­dekin was forced into a late start there was the risk of get­ting caught out by an early wet sea­son.

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