OVER 30 million tonnes of sugarcane was harvested during the 2018 season with the high sugar content a saving grace for North Queensland growers amid the challenging world market price.
As the season closes on the state’s 21 sugar mills, dry conditions lead to a reduced crop, but encouraged the highest sugar content in almost ten years.
Australian Sugar Milling Council’s Jim Crane said dry conditions for most of the year and particularly through winter had resulted in a reduction to the initially estimated cane crop.
“Final throughput is expected to be in the order of 30.5 million tonnes,” Mr Crane said.
“Sugar content however is well above the long-term average, with a CCS of close to 14.5, the best seasonal result since 2009.
“Despite the reduced crop, down by almost a million tonnes on 2017, raw sugar production will be similar to last year at around 4.3 million tonnes.”
Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said the region finished their crush strongly and about a month earlier than last year, when wet conditions delayed the harvest and forced growers to leave cane in the ground.
Mr Pisano said rain that fell across the district this week could not have come at a better time for growers who were keeping an eye on next years crop.
“We’ve had the harvest completed for just over a week now so the rain has been perfect in that way.
“It’s really good for the young crop coming up as it has been very dry this year.”
Mr Pisano said two flood events in the district earlier this year didn’t impact the crop as expected and the season had exceeded expectations.
“It is really surprising that even with that flooding we have been pleasantly surprised, we estimated 4.5 million tonnes and ended up with 4.7 million which was really good.
“It's always a nice surprise when you get more than expected.
“We went through to December 21 last year, this year we managed to get the whole lot off and didn’t leave any cane behind.
“The sugar content was really good and it is always pleasing to have the whole crop off.”
Mr Crane said the unseasonably hot weather had been a focus during the past couple of weeks, with bushfires impacting some sugar cane regions.
“Welcome rain in the central and southern regions in the past few days has provided relief from the fires and will give next year’s crop a much needed boost in growth,” Mr Crane said.
“More rain forecast for all coastal areas north from about Rockhampton in the coming week will lay the foundation for a good crop next year.”
Queensland sugar mills are now switching their attention to repairs and maintenance, with more than $200 million typically invested annually by mills during the non-crush period of the year.