Costs of the big wet
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.