Blame it on the rain

Wet may delay sugar cane crush in North

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CRUSHING DELAY: Innisfail cane grower Adrian Darveniza and son Hamish are looking forward to the start of the cane harvest in the North.

CRUSHING DELAY: Innisfail cane grower Adrian Darveniza and son Hamish are looking forward to the start of the cane harvest in the North.

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The sugar cane harvest is set to be delayed across parts of the North after the region was lashed with late season rain last week.

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THE sugar cane harvest is set to be delayed across parts of the North after the region was lashed with late season rain last week.

Inkerman was to be the first of Wilmar's four Burdekin mills to fire up on June 2, but the season is likely to be postponed for a couple of weeks due to the drenching.

Canegrowers Burdekin chair Phil Marano said persistent rain had fallen across the Burdekin over the weekend, with 60mm recorded on average.

"Rain was widespread and looks likely to delay the start for two weeks, so Inkerman might start three weeks from now as a minimum," Mr Marano said.

"It will probably be good for the growth although the weather has turned cold and may lower CCS."

Mr Marano said the official estimate was about 8.5 million tonnes for the district this season, which was about average.

However, the low global sugar price, which has plummeted to below 10c a pound during the coronavirus pandemic, was a concern.

At that price, growers will get about $380 per tonne of sugar, just enough to break even.

"That's about break even where it is at now, anything above about $450 we'd be making money, at least we're not going backwards," Mr Marano said.

Further north, areas around Tully received over 300mm of rain in just 24 hours last week.

Tully Canegrowers chair Jamie Dore said while their season traditionally started on June 14, the mill was ready to go on June 2 if conditions were right.

"Depending on follow up rain, it might push the season back a few days or a week, but if there's good drying conditions we should be able to kick off," Mr Dore said.

He said while the May rain 'may have broken a few records' they had experienced a dry season until this point.

"I think the crop for harvest this year is fine, it was fully grown, though the sugar content may be affected. When we start up it might drag the content down."

Mr Dore said the region was likely to turn off an average crop of about 2.5mt.

"It's a tale of two cities, some areas were so dry it greatly affected their crop, while in low-lying areas it was really good," he said.

"It was very mixed and will be hard to predict with some areas extremely good and some poor."

Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said his region had also experienced rain, but with the sun now shining through, the weather may provide a last-minute boost to the crop.

"We have beautiful sunshine now at least that might maximise the potential of the crop in the ground," Mr Pisano said.

"It won't be a huge crop, maybe about four million tonnes."

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