It has been a difficult year, weather-wise. The start of 2010 held such promise, especially with pricing forecasts. However, a delayed, wet start to the early planting season was followed by a season fraught with persistent wet weather and mill breakdowns. Throw a strike or two into the mix and the result is a greatly reduced harvest from the 9+million tonnes that was available in the paddocks.
A lack of wet weather equipment and suitable sidings for such equipment has also severely reduced the capacity for harvesting this year’s crop. A ‘wet-weather’ harvesting plan needs to be formalised to deal with localised and district issues arising from on and off roster harvesting, impacted by inability of growers to harvest in rotation due to individual paddock conditions.
The positives from 2010 have been in the co-operative joint commitment shown recently towards maximising the off-take of cane for the 2010 season. Sucrogen senior staff and management have conducted weekly meetings with the grower collective representatives for some months, with ‘visiting growers/harvester operators’ included at most meetings. With the weather predictions for 2010, it would have been preferable to have measures in place at the start of the season, so that a local list of wet weather gear and ‘wet weather contingency plans’ could have been in place earlier.
While we hope we won’t have another year like this in the near future, it is now that plans for a future recurrence need to be developed and formalised. I have consistently urged Sucrogen to impress on their southern counterparts the importance of increased mill preparations and maintenance in the slack season, so that mill availability percentages and performances are dramatically improved to cope with the potential 2011 crop.
As the current collective agreement is yet to be finalised, the need for incentives in mill performance has been highlighted during this season, along with the critical need to underpin CCS past optimal harvesting dates and introduce a compulsory code of conduct, including compulsory arbitration, in order to deal with the obvious impasse recorded from every cane supply contract negotiations since deregulation of the industry.
While meetings between ACFA representatives, other collective representatives and Sucrogen representatives will continue as necessary, the persistent rain episodes may ultimately decide the cessation of crushing, irrespective of discussions and decisions taken.
Recorded CCS levels for the days up to the last rain episode have ranged from 7 through to the early 10’s. At these ccs levels, the farmer has little positive prospect from harvesting the remaining crop. That coupled with the potential financial impact of reduced ccs levels on the already reduced seasonal averages, will no doubt provide a practical decision on the season end date. The estimated remaining crop for 2010 stands at 23,349.26 hectares and approx. 2.75mt.
|Burdekin District Analysis 12-12-2010|
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The resultant financial losses to growers and the local industry as well as the impact on the Burdekin and regional communities, is already being severely felt and recent media statements from industry and government, seeking to minimise or discount those losses and difficulties, do nothing to support, represent or resolve the very real needs and hardships within the industry and our communities.
On a brighter note, I was asked to represent the Australian Cane Farmers Association at the QSL annual general meeting on 16th November. The QSL team has made the best out of one of the most difficult years in memory with uncertain and rapidly declining crop forecasts. The conduct and content of this year’s AGM deserves note and commendation from the industry. It is to be hoped that the new leadership and team at QSL has a long and productive association with the sugar industry’s future. It was disappointing however, that none of the four locally elected QSL members attended the meeting.
Mention should also be made and congratulations offered to Alan Winney, on his selection as 2010 NAB Agribusiness Awards Leader of the Year, for ‘his significant contribution to Australian agriculture over the past 35 years’.
Representatives of Sugar Research Development Corporation held a GIVE presentation in Home Hill on 25th November, to highlight for local growers the range and diversity of recent projects that have been funded.
DERM conducted a reef protection workshop on the new mandatory chemical use requirements under the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Regulation 1999 on 3rd December. The workshop provided information on the Chemical Environmental Risk Management Plan, which must be submitted to DERM by those growers who cannot comply with all of the mandatory requirements under the regulation.
This year has seen many changes across the face of the sugar industry and some of these have been the retirement of Ross Walker as Chairman of ACFA and his election to local council and the retirement of John Blankensee as Vice Chairman and election of Robert Quirk to fill that position. On behalf of the Burdekin membership, I support the sentiments of the present chairman’s comments in thanking both Ross and John for their contributions to the industry and offer my congratulations on Ross’ election to council. I take the opportunity to welcome the incoming chairman, Don Murday who offers the organisation a wealth of experience, both in the organisation and the industry as a whole and Robert, to the position of Vice Chairman, as well as recently elected northern director, Gerard Puglisi.
I thank the 2010 board members of ACFA for their contribution to the industry and wish them, the ACFA membership and other industry participants a blessed and happy Christmas with your loved ones and a bright and prosperous 2011.
Burdekin Region Director