CANE farmers are reflecting on a 2018 season in which the amount of cane they harvested was down on previous years but its sugar content was the best for almost a decade.
From late May until this week, growers have supplied just over 32,465,700 tonnes of sugarcane to Australia’s 24 sugar mills.
The result is more than a million tonnes down on the 2017 crop and 4 million tonnes lower than what was harvested in 2016.
CANEGROWERS chief executive officer Dan Galligan said the warm and dry weather, which bordered on drought conditions in some districts, was largely the reason for the lower result.
“However, the lower tonnage has been somewhat offset by a lift in the sugar content of the cane,” Mr Galligan said.
This year has finished with an overall average cane sugar content, or CCS, of 14.33 in Queensland which is our best result since 2009.
“This year has finished with an overall average cane sugar content, or CCS, of 14.33 in Queensland which is our best result since 2009.”
“Looking ahead, the dry conditions that impacted the size of the crop this year year also slowed the early growth of ratoon and plant cane alike for the 2019 season.
“Fortunately, the big rainfall totals from Tropical Cyclone Owen has gone a long way towards replenishing soil moisture in many regions which have desperately needed it.
“While there appears to be some damage to crops, particularly around Ingham, our hope is that there’s plenty of growing time left for the plants to recover before the mills start again in mid-2019.
“We’ve also recently seen fires wipe out the early growth for the next crop across more than 800 hectares in the Mackay area and we hope that the rain that’s fallen since the fire can generate some recovery.”
During the off-season growers will be very busy. As well as fertilising and protecting the growing crop from pests and diseases, harvest machinery will undergo maintenance.
“While some areas have seen an improvement in milling performance this year, in other areas growers are concerned that performance has been letting the industry down,” Mr Galligan said.
“We will be encouraged to see the milling companies focusing and investing in maintenance in the lead up to next year’s crush such that we can all benefit form a return to consistently high performances in 2019.”
With record global sugar production leading to record surpluses and the threat of subsidised Indian sugar exports, 2018 saw raw world sugar prices fall to their lowest level in more than a decade.
“CANEGROWERS has been very active at home and overseas, raising this issue and the momentum for World Trade Organisation intervention,” Mr Galligan said.
“The outlook for 2019 at this stage is a little brighter.
“The production cycle appears to turning and international support is building for CANEGROWERS’ call for WTO action against India’s price supports and subsidised exports.”