Well, if 2010 provided ‘difficult’ weather, 2011 has capped it off with one catastrophic event after another. With heart-breaking reports of the flood devastation starting the year, Cyclones Anthony and Yasi, flooding and heatwaves in the southern states and the WA bushfires to follow, I’m not alone in hoping things settle down for the rest of the decade at least and that all those affected will be assisted and supported throughout the recovery and re-build periods.
Scheduled meetings with QSL and BSES have been postponed due to local conditions following Cyclone Yasi. Meeting dates will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Cyclone damage locally appears to be less than expected, from winds that have uprooted massive trees across the district and damaged structures to varying degrees. While cane has been flattened, most appears to be leaning, rather than snapped, with some exceptions in localised areas. If the sunshine and humidity continues, much of the cane should straighten and recover, hopefully with losses minimised.
For those growers who have suffered crop, structural or machinery losses, Yasi has been one more blow to an already bruised industry and community. For our northern neighbours, Yasi unleashed her full fury and has decimated many producers and their homes, businesses and communities. The effects have been widespread and devastating. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be directed towards their recovery and rebuilding in the months and years to come.
Governments and industry representatives need to be mindful of the average age of farmers and their ongoing financial losses, in assessments of clean up assistance requirements and community recovery provisions for future events of this magnitude. Many of these communities have suffered one too many blows for them to recover readily this time. Recent reports of closure of Babinda Mill, QR redundancies and difficulties in the dairy industry are compounding the crippling effects of weather on communities and are a direct result of deregulation and corporatisation of our essential infrastructure and primary industries. Governments and industry must wake up and correct the haemorrhaging in our rural and regional areas with sound policy and infrastructure. We’ve been ‘out of sight and out of mind’ when funding is allocated, for far too long.
Last year’s recurring flooding resulted in many growers being unable to complete planting or fallow cropping of legumes, etc. in 2010, thereby resulting in further negative financial impacts for canefarmers. A plan and local list of available wet weather gear must be formulated to deal with adverse weather issues and fortnightly meetings with Sucrogen have commenced, to address shortcomings from the previous season. Harvesting and milling structures generally proved to be quite inadequate to deal with the wet paddock conditions last year and 2011 is unlikely to see the crop crushed within an optimum season length without a serious effort to improve harvesting, transport and milling capacity. Growers and harvester operators are encouraged to attend these meetings to provide input into the discussions also. Any plan must have as its focus, a clear intent to harvest the full crop potential for the district within the optimum 18-20 week period, rather than continue to extend season lengths to accommodate inadequacies in milling capacity or availability.
Total tonnages of harvested cane in the Burdekin for 2010 were more than 3 million tonnes short of the available crop due to adverse weather, recurrent mill breakdowns, strikes, lack of wet weather infrastructure and inadequate availability of suitable sidings for the wet weather gear to operate on and a bin fleet capable of transporting the crop.
The final 2010 production figures for the Burdekin district were as follows:
Total Cane Crushed for the Burdekin Mills: CCS:
Invicta 2,362,098 13.57
Pioneer 1,409,827 14.10
Kalamia 1,227,348 13.56
Inkerman 1,460,848 13.47
Total: $6,460,121 13.66
The final date for lodging harvesting group application changes for the 2011 season was 28th February. Discussions relevant to any proposed changes will need to be commenced, for shared siding arrangements shortly.
A final agreement was not finalised for last year’s harvest, underlining the failure of the deregulated industry and lack of compulsory arbitration in current legislation. 2010 season proved the necessity of inclusion of ccs underpinning past optimal harvesting dates as an incentive towards higher mill performance standards. Every collective negotiations since deregulation of the industry has resulted in the agreements being signed under duress, confirmation of a lack of market power in the farming sector. Further contract negotiations will commence in the near future.
Sugarcane farmers and industry participants are invited to attend a regional SRDC meeting in Ayr on Tuesday, 15th March. The meeting will provide an opportunity to see how your SRDC levies have been invested, hear about the R & D results; meet SRDC staff, board members and other sugar industry participants. The meeting will conclude with complimentary pizza and drinks.
Where: The Burdekin Delta Cinemas at 145-149 Queen Street, Ayr.
When: Tuesday evening, 15th March from 4:30 to 6:30pm.
Contact Kara Billsborough at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ph: 07-3210 0495 to register.
Discussions on local land valuations will take place this week, between grower representatives and government officials, to hear outlines of possible valuation changes and estimates.
Personal representations have also been made regarding the possibility of government charges on unused water in irrigated crops being waived for the 2010 crop. With 2010 being a year of significant financial hardship in the district, the state government and SUNWATER are in a position to show consideration, by waiving the charges for unused irrigation water for the 2010 year, especially following the detrimental effects of recurrent heavy rainfall during the planting and harvest seasons last year and Cyclone Yasi more recently.
Canefarmers are encouraged to attend the AGM and Conference to be held in Cairns on 23rd March