WHILE Queensland’s drought-stricken graziers have welcomed recent news that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has met sugar-milling representatives to gain an accurate picture of the current molasses supply and demand ratio, they want supplies ensured until the drought breaks.
Concerns have been aired in recent weeks that, with the cane crush finishing by mid-December this year, availability would be in short supply and the state’s breeding herd endangered.
Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said the meeting, which included AgForce representatives and the Australian Sugar Milling Council, had resulted in a commitment to ongoing dialogue, as the season develops, about how to best ensure molasses is domestically available to feedstock providers who are servicing the droughted areas of the state.
"All parties showed goodwill in the meeting, and are working together on a solution," he said.
Cloncurry Brahman breeder Jacqueline Curley was one of the first to raise the alarm, and she reiterated last week that the government had to find a way to make sure enough molasses was available until drought-breaking rain arrives.
"The government needs to guarantee this, otherwise there’s going to be huge losses in the state’s breeding herd."
Cattle at Gipsy Plains are receiving 50 tonnes of molasses every 10 days, and Ms Curley estimated 75t was going out on her property alone every week when multi-lick supplements were included.
"I’ve been told that on-property storage is the solution but we already have 220,000 litres of storage here – that’s a drop in the ocean for a drought like this. No one is going to have on-farm storage for a one-in-40-year event."
Ms Curley also suggested that a long-term solution would be for the government to erect large reserve tanks that could be filled or topped up at the beginning of each crushing season and accessed by producers when needed at the end of the season when exporting began.
"Government could easily work this like a business."
Mr McVeigh said he would monitor the molasses supply issue and provide further updates as his department worked with industry to provide as much support as possible to the community while the drought continued.
"I would urge producers to continue to discuss their ongoing molasses needs with their supplier."