Widespread rain and winds across most of the Burdekin district brought an abrupt stop to harvesting and planting activities and highlighted the need for disputation within the milling sector to quickly reach a satisfactory resolution, in order to avoid further stoppages.
The weather conditions are likely to be repeated, given weather predictions for the season. The larger harvest of an estimated 8.38 million tonnes will require the cooperation of all sectors of the industry in order to achieve the anticipated finish date for the season.
Industry participants will continue to evaluate the ground conditions for harvest recommencement and a restart to planting activities may be possible later in the week.
Over a third of the Burdekin crop has been harvested to date (mid August), 3.37 million tonnes with an average CCS of 14.3 for the season. The week’s Burdekin average CCS was recorded at 15.15. Pioneer mill recorded its highest ever weekly throughput of 95,179 tonnes.
Varieties performed as follows:
KQ228 15.55 on 49% of the crush.
By the time this report is published, the results of the federal election will be clear and the new government’s policies should be taking shape enough to assess their impact on farming communities and the Australian public.
The Qld government’s Reef Protection Package requires that Burdekin canefarmers operating an ‘Environmentally Relevant Activity’ are required to maintain records for the application of agricultural chemicals, fertilisers and soil conditioners on their properties.
Six farmer mentors are now available in the district to complete the various documents required under the reef protection legislation. This service is free and ACFA will be providing further workshops as required to assist growers with explanations on the primary documents and mandatory competency levels required for chemical usage and fertiliser and soil conditioner applications. For further information or to book for a workshop, please contact me on 0407779700 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The state government’s QCA water pricing review continues to loom over the district’s producers and, based on previous experience with these reviews, there is little confidence of a reasonable outcome being achieved or of realistic operating costs for the Sunwater network being recorded.
The new pricing implementation is set to be enacted on 1st July, 2011. The reality seems to be that producers are bearing the brunt of government excesses that have left Queensland as equal last with NSW in economic stature. It appears that the media, for the most part are failing to remind the government and the public that Queensland was left at the end of the Bjelke-Petersen era with the healthiest economy in the country; the lowest tax and the best health system in the country. Our nurses today can’t even expect to be paid for their services under the present regime. The condition of Queensland’s roads, including rural and regional roads, is appalling.
With road licences and crown land leases seeing the latest fee hike by the state government, it beggars belief that growers who have paid for the dubious privilege of managing and maintaining these small easements and land pockets are now facing unjustifiable fee hikes to either continue the present arrangements or pay penalty fees to relinquish them. The state government has offered no valid reasoning for the increased charges and has made no effort to consult with industry on the impacts these fee grabs would have on individual growers, with some producers holding multiple licences.
From a paltry $22,000 in state government funding allocated to ‘strategically targeted projects in the Burdekin area’, for funding designed to ‘protect Queensland’s national parks and state forests’, cane farmers will be disappointed to learn that from that figure, a total of $7,000 was allocated for feral pig and fox control projects to protect nesting marine turtles and $15,000 was allocated to reduce the impact of rubber vine on the endangered beach scrub ecosystem at Cape Upstart National Park. It appears that the feral pig menace and rampant hymenachne on government reserves will continue to impact on endangered Burdekin primary producers and crops.
Governments; state, federal and local, must face the wrath of industry representatives over the recent escalation of electricity, registration, rates, licensing and charges for every conceivable item of government ‘services’. Local rating increases seem to need a reality check as roads and services provided to producers is often negligible, dirt roads and no water, sewerage or waste services, yet the rates charges are double those reflected in other shires for similar parcels of land which have closer access to local townships and services.
A recent Chamber of commerce meeting with three of the local candidates, raised issues such as servicing and funding of country roads, inclusion of legislative mandates for ethanol in fuels and value-adding benefits for primary producers.
These issues and others were raised when a meeting of ASA (Australian Sugar Industry Alliance) representatives and local industry spokespersons discussed issues facing the local industry. Rates and other cost increases, market inequality under the legislative constraints placed on local producers and the ‘price-taker’ position forced on us against a highly subsidised and corrupted world market. Concerns were raised about the ‘plan’ on offer including only one local representative to be added to a board already laden with opportunities to leave the producers with little representation. There are many issues which impact growers locally and even in regions of this district. It would be difficult to believe that a single grower representative would be given the opportunity to raise and progress the interests of each area on a board consisting of such a diverse range of interests.
Local farmers are concerned that the largely generic result of CSA negotiations in the district could become transferred to a similar result for producers in a so-called ‘industry body’ representing millers, growers and other parties, risking democratic and regional interests for a ‘might is right mentality’, already seen in many other industry negotiations.
The ACFA again sponsored the annual Hand Cane Cutting Championships at Dalbeg on 27th June which hosted Hon Bob Katter, Federal Member for Kennedy, as a guest cutter. As usual the cutters all gave commendable performances and highlighted the difficult work undertaken by our predecessors and the pioneers of the sugar industry.
Great Barrier Reef
The Reef rescue sugar working group met to hear an outline on Reef Rescue funding for Round 3 on 20th July, with funding applications open to district growers for submission. Growers are reminded that the Reef Wise compliance record books are now available for use. Reef Rescue grant recipients for Round 2 should have completed a Farm Productivity Assessment (FPA), the 6 easy steps and chemical accreditation courses. I have recently held a workshop for growers to complete their FPA at the Synergy Offices in Queen Street, Ayr. Dave Millard conducted the course and it received a ‘thumbs up’ from all participant growers. Further courses can be held if required, by contacting me as indicated below.
Growers have requested that more workshops be held to discuss industry events and funding application requirements as a group environment provides an ideal avenue for discussion and response to any difficulties encountered by the participants. Arrangements are being made for a workshop on Reef Protection Package compliance and growers can contact me to advise on workshops of interest email@example.com with contact details.
SRDC Grower Group projects are also available for funding applications, which will close on 3rd September.
Meetings and representations were held with Sucrogen staff on harvest equity issues and successful resolutions were achieved on all issues raised. Further meetings have been held with Sucrogen on the inconsistencies in the CSA commitments from the 2006-2008 contracts and the present arrangements on burnt cane penalties. Discussions are continuing.
Discussions were held with AON to streamline crop insurances for the 2011 season so that the additional members of ACFA and current members would all be contacted regarding insurances, well in advance of the 2011 season.
Cane Firing issues continue to be a cause of misinformation and misrepresentation in local and regional media, especially through the letters pages. The local industry representatives met again on 30th July to compile further correspondence with the relevant Minister and are engaged in ongoing discussion on the issues presented.
At the time of writing, the 2010 Burdekin Productivity Awards, supported by the Australian Cane Farmers Association were scheduled to be held on Tuesday 24th August at 7:30pm at the Burdekin Delta Cinemas.
This year, the awards have been cut to three, totalling $1500 in prize money:
Sugar Producer of the Year (highest tonnes of sugar per hectare farm for the 2009 harvest) $500
Highest CCS Farm of the Year $500
Highest Tonnes Cane per Hectare $500
Ross Coventry and John Hughes, chief Investigators of the SRDC-funded project BPS001 were to present their findings to interested growers at this meeting.
Pest & Disease Issues
“Burdekin Productivity Services reports that Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD) has been confirmed on a Burdekin farm. This is a serious disease and one that can impact growers’ productivity and profitability enormously. BSES reports that in some districts, productivity is reduced by up to 20 – 30%. Nearly all varieties are susceptible, with varying resistance to RSD and while the disease is called ‘ratoon stunting disease’ it can seriously affect plant cane as well. Infection is spread through cane juice, so it is imperative that contractors who are not sterilising equipment between farms commence their hygiene programs immediately.
Cleaning and sterilising between farms is the key to effective RSD control. This applies to all planting and harvesting contractors, but especially billet planting contractors. Juice from one infected billet can be spread to many other billets in a bin. It is important for billet planting contractors to remember to include sterilisation of their chopper box. The blades within this machinery carry a high risk of transfer of the disease. Harvesting contractors risk spreading the disease through their base cutters and extractors.
RSD is spread by planting disease-infected cane. It is important for this reason that growers either:
regularly refresh their supplies of approved seed cane from BPS, or
plant cane that is either first or second progeny from BPS approved seed cane, or
have their proposed plant source material checked by BPS staff prior to planting.
It is expected that BPS and BSES will jointly conduct contractor and grower information sessions during the next few weeks.”
BPS has begun planting all mother plots, the isolation plot and some approved seed plots. ‘Mother plots at Inkerman, Whitsons (Ayr) and Brock Road, Clare are all planted. Duncan’s mother plot is to be planted this week as is the Isolation plot at Christensen’s. Rapisarda’s approved seed plot near Clare was finished last week. Stockham’s approved seed plot at Giru will be planted during the coming weeks.’
Fee for Service
EM mapping and accompanying soil testing services continue as usual this month. Peter McDonnell, BPS’s experienced Veris machine operator, continues to conduct the mapping.
Burdekin Director & Jnr Vice-Chair,
Australian Cane Farmers Association.