Australia’s only privately-owned sugar mill is on the brink of closing down permanently unless the plant that fuels it is thrown a $5 million funding lifeline.
The Rocky Point Sugar Mill, on the northern end of the Gold Coast, is waiting for the power plant that runs the mill to be fixed.
The cogeneration plant was deemed inoperable six months ago due to problems including cracks in the boiler.
The sugar harvest kicked off this month and usually farmers like Peter Kaddatz, 70, who has 101 hectares of land at Norwell, would be sending hundreds of tonnes to the sugar mill to be processed every week.
The plant usually process 20,000 tonnes of sugar cane a week.
But the 30 megawatt biomass-fed plant has been dormant for six months.
The plant’s owner, Sydney-based First Pacific Capital Underwriters (FPCU), has to find $5 million to fix the Woongoolba plant or the farmers face a bleak future.
“Normally there should be smoke pouring out of the chimney which I can see from my farm,” Mr Kaddatz said.
“But it has been quiet for the last six months. We can’t do anything without the mill.
“I could cut the cane but I’d have to put it in the swamp.”
Mr Kaddatz, a fourth-generation cane farmer, has been able to send a small percentage of his crop to the mill in Condong but it can’t take more as it is running at full capacity.
Usually he would have an annual turnover of $250,000 but faces getting 10 per cent of that this harvest season.
“It is costing us a huge amount of money.
“We’ve put money into producing this year’s crop and we’re not going to recover that let alone earn an income,” he said.
“I’m disappointed and disillusioned and frustrated by the failure to come to an arrangement earlier in the year.”
FPCU is meeting with the Rocky Point District Cane Growers Organisation on Wednesday to discuss a solution to the crisis.
Chairman Richard Skopp said he had his fingers crossed a suitable funding arrangement could be thrashed out.
“We’re hoping that the funds have been found to fix the thing,” he said adding that he did not want to comment further before the meeting.
FPC Green Energy director Eduard Alcordo, who heads up an affiliate of FPCU that runs the plant, said it had several investors from Hong Kong who were prepared to stump up the money but the deal fell through.
He said any deal had to be fair to the mill’s owners, the farmers, who are being asked to chip in for repairs, and FPCU.
David Heck, who manages the mill on behalf of the Heck Group, was not available for comment.