Bundaberg Sugar Limited (BSL) is exploring how it can secure its future cane supply after closing Bingera Mill.

The mill, which has operated in the Bundaberg region for 135 years, shut down after this year’s crush, leaving only the Millaquin Mill operational.

Chief executive Guy Basile said it came down to low cane supply and the company was weighing up its options.

“We are looking at any cane area that is close to our rail sidings and we are looking at land,” he said.

“We’d like to get to 60–70 per cent of the volume [crushed] being Bundaberg Sugar’s own cane.

“I think our business model that we’ve got, which is basically the total supply, and which is cane to packaged white sugar, is the ideal scenario and we’re trying to build on that business going forward.”

BSL has not made any plans for what will happen to the Bingera Mill site.

A faded, marked and peeling Bingera Mill & Farms sign stands in front of tall, green sugar cane
Bingera Mill has closed after 135 years of operation, and now Bundaberg Sugar Limited is looking to secure cane supply.(ABC Wide Bay: Ross Kay)

Diversification plans

Despite their focus on expanding their cane farmland operations BSL’s parent company Belgian-based Finasucre has bought macadamia orchards and BSL also grows sweet potatoes.

“With cane, every fifth year is in fallow so that’s where we use our sweet potatoes,” Mr Basile said.

“Finasucre has invested in macadamias … but that’s Finasucre not Bundaberg Sugar.

“They’ve got investments all around the world.”

Mr Basile said they were also looking at expanding newer markets, namely organic sugar.

The company aimed to build its total organic sugar crop to 16,000 tonnes over the next five to 10 years.

“Year on year we’re building on our organic crop, so it does take three years to convert from cane land to organic,” he said.

“That’s one of our key focuses on diversification.”

In the meantime, the mill was continuing its consultations with unions and employees across its whole operation.

“There are most likely 17 full-time jobs that could be in jeopardy,” Mr Basile said.

“There’d be some seasonal workforce and casual workforce [lost] as well.”

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