With the weather improving enough to get headlands slashed and preparations made for planting in many areas of the district, farmers are making mammoth efforts to put on a positive face and get the necessary planting done on their farms.
Governments and industry organisations however, should not take their industry and determination as a sign that they are not suffering significant hardship as they, along with the districts they support are showing signs of serious financial and personal loss and trauma. Having travelled along the northern coastline and through the local district over the months since Yasi, one does not have to ask too many questions to hear the level of distress and hardship that the farming and district’s communities continue to suffer. For too many, the funds are not available to pay for fuel, maintenance or their farm finance and loan charges and governments have failed to adequately assess or assist with the prolonged hardship caused by ongoing weather events and government policy consequences.
Personal representations have also been made at the recent QCA meeting held in Clare regarding irrigation issues and the need to review all water charges, including the refund and removal of unjustifiable ‘unused water’ charges for both the 2010 and 2011 crop years. With both 2010 and 2011 reflecting significant weather impacts and difficulty for growers, the state government and SUNWATER are in a position to practically show consideration of the plight of local irrigators, including canefarmers.
A waiving of the charges for unused irrigation water for the 2010 and 2011 crop years , especially following the detrimental effects of recurrent heavy rainfall during the planting and harvest seasons last year and Cyclone Yasi more recently, would give local producers a realistic and practical reflection of more appropriate charges for water over those years. Farmers have not only suffered the effects of these serious weather events but also had to wear the cost of irrigation charges for water they have had no need for, during that time period.
Local events held recently were the SRDC regional expo for 2011, held in Ayr on 16th March. The event was well attended and was the first of another five such events held across Queensland in April. Topics for discussion included harvesting, milling, soil science, farming systems, grower group projects and biosecurity.
Recent meetings with Sucrogen and other grower representatives included discussion on starting Pioneer mill as soon as possible after 16th May and the three remaining mills from 23rd May, these dates will be confirmed in early May, if weather permits. Steam trials at all four mills are planned for mid-May. ACFA have requested a ccs underpinning outside of the 18-20 week optimum season length, as discussed at the joint 2010 season review and 2011 planning meeting. In proposing that Sucrogen aims for the optimum 18-20 week season, when assessing its maintenance program, I had sufficient support for the proposal to gain majority support and would expect that the majority decision will form the basis for further capital and maintenance provisions in the district’s mills and infrastructure.
Discussions also included the need to commence contractual discussions as a matter of urgency with individual collectives and the need to resolve equity matters over the district, given the inequities of a staggered start and the relative insulation of some mills during the seasonal harvest. Estimates have been rolled out and bagasse issues and dirt levels will be closely monitored, especially given the standover crop that will be processed in the first rounds. Further meetings with Sucrogen and grower representatives will be held leading up to and during the 2011 season.
With an estimated crop size of 9.21mt and the suggested start date, the estimated finish date has been posted at 19th November, 2011. The district can be excused for holding the celebrations until mill performance has been tested and weather and cropping data is more than a forecast. The area under cane for 2011 is approximately 80,666ha.
Sucrogen have advised that those growers who had submitted invoices for Wet Weather harvesting equipment will be paid directly and should have received payments at month end.