Su­gar in­dus­try shake-up

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

IT’S a su­gar mill like you have never seen be­fore.

One that can gen­er­ate power for 28,000 homes, op­er­ates dur­ing ev­ery month of the year and also pro­cesses blue agave – the plant used in Mex­ico to make tequila.

That’s just some of the vi­sion MSF Su­gar chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mike Barry and gen­eral man­ager busi­ness de­vel­op­ment Hy­wel Cook ex­plained dur­ing their pre­sen­ta­tion at the Ru­ral Press Club.

As part of a $75 mil­lion up­grade to MSF’s Table­land Mill, by July next year green baseload elec­tric­ity and ethanol will be pro­duced at the fac­tory along­side su­gar.

And this De­cem­ber, they will seek board ap­proval for a sim­i­lar project to be rolled out at an­other one of the com­pany’s four mills.

Mr Cook said the plans were part of a “bio­fu­ture roadmap”, which could one day lead them to pro­duc­ing mul­ti­ple prod­ucts and ser­vices from ex­ist­ing mills.

“This is about us­ing the as­sets that we have to the best of our abil­ity,” he said.

“The ex­cit­ing part is when you look at how can we trans­form the in­dus­try… you look at how you can run your fac­to­ries 12 months of the year us­ing a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts to go into the front end.

“We can start mak­ing higher value prod­ucts, like bio­plas­tics, higher value fu­els, other food prod­ucts – so much more than just su­gar.”

Mr Cook said this could make cane worth more, from about $50 a tonne to $100 a tonne.

So what does all of this mean for the grower?

While Mr Barry didn’t give a pre­dicted fig­ure for how much money would be passed onto farm­ers, he said there was “no doubt about it – they are go­ing to be paid more”.

Mr Barry wit­nessed the shut­down of the Babinda Mill in far north Queens­land in 2011, when other agri­cul­ture in­dus­tries swal­lowed up much of the re­gion’s cane land.

“If (farm­ers) are not prof­itable, they will vote with their feet and they will grow other crops,” he said.

“We have seen that... we had tree farms go­ing into that area but more than any­thing it was ba­nanas.”

Mr Barry said it was up to millers to be “on their toes”.

“We have got to make sure that we have the best and most prof­itable land use.”

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PHOTO: CAMPBELL GELLIE

FU­TURE THINK­ING: MSF chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mike Barry be­lieves mills will be pro­duc­ing much more than just su­gar in the near fu­ture.

MSF Su­gar GM for busi­ness de­vel­op­ment Hy­wel Cook.

PHOTO: AN­DREA DAVY

MSF Su­gar CEO Mike Barry.

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