Close to 50 growers assembled at Home Hill earlier this week to hear the latest cane industry news from members of Sugar Research Australia (SRA), QSL and Smartcane BMP during an information session hosted by Canegrowers Burdekin.
SRA’s chair Dr Ron Swindells and CEO Neil Fisher provided the key forum address on the day.
They said a recent ABARES survey into Cane Farm Productivity and Profitability indicated 58 per cent of Burdekin cane farms ran at a loss for 2013/14 with the high costs associated with water and electricity impacting on profit margins the most.
Mr Fisher said growers in the region have made it clear that the biggest area of focus for SRA shoud be introducing new varieties.
“Depending on the decision of the regions Variety Adoption Committee, two advanced clones may be released in 2016 for the Burdekin,” Mr Fisher said.
He said research must have a clear path to adoption.
“To progress this the Burdekin has two Adoption Officers who will be the conduit for local intelligence between industry and SRA.”
He said SRA is continuing its focus on reducing harvest losses with research programs funded by SRA.
“Following demand from productivity services, SRA has fast-tracked a new project to develop a business case to implement a new sampling and testing method for RSD (ratoon stunting disease).
“The project is working toward adoption for 2017 which will make sampling more efficient in the field and testing more sensitive in the lab.”
In regards to Yellow Canopy Syndrome (YCS) progress, Mr Fisher said despite a significant effort in the past three years, the causal factors for YCS remain unknown.
“This is the most pressing concern for the cane industry.
“A major round of YCS sampling is being conducted in the Burdekin this month. This is an integrated effort across the research program.”
He said SRA is conducting four field trials and two pot trials in the Burdekin to try and find the root cause of the problem.
QSL industry relationship manager Carla Keith provided an update on the sugar marketing pools this year.
Ms Keith reminded growers to finalise their 2016-season pricing decisions with Wilmar by Wednesday, February 24.
“All Growers, whether they are understaking individual pricing (Target or Call Pool options), or participating in a QSL-managed pool, must finalise their allocations with their mill by this date,” she said.
She said Wilmar is required to finalise this information for QSL on Monday, February 29, with QSL to begin pricing sugar for the upcoming season on Tuesday, March 1.
Ms Keith said growers are often surprised to find the QSL Harvest Pool is defined as having the highest price risk of their pools.
“This is because this pool’s primary objective is to manage possible fluctuations in production across the season and so a portion of it (roughly half) is not sold or priced until the sugar is delivered to QSL (usually around October/November).
“This means QSL has a shorter window to price this sugar and could be forced to price and sell into a potentially lower (or higher) market.”
Northern region client liaison officer for QRAA, Peter Crowley, spoke to the forum attendees about the services the QRAA has to offer Burdekin cane farmers.
His key message was that cane farmers should not self-assess.
“Give me a call to determine if you are eligible for any of the assistance programs the QRAA administers,” Mr Crowley said.
QRAA administers programs on behalf of the Federal and State Government, with all programs focusing either on increasing the sustainability and profitability of rural and regional enterprises or restoring businesses following significant natural disasters.
He provided an overview of the key programs QRAA are currently offering including sustainability loans; first start loans and the Drought Concessional loans and Drought Recover Concessional loans.
Canegrower Burdekin general manager Debra Burden said several growers approached her after the meeting wanting to get in touch with Mr Crowley to discuss their options.
She said he be back in the Burdekin on March 21-22 and will be available for appointments which can be made via the Canegrowers office on 4790 3603 or direct on 1800 623 946.
Burdekin Smartcane BMP officer Terry Granshaw provided an update on the program advising that 1,351 growers are now registered state-wide.
“In the Burdekin, 160 growers representing 34,250 Ha have now completed the self-assessment for the three core water quality modules, and 49 growers are now accredited state-wide with nine of them based in the Burdekin,” Mr Granshaw said.
He advised that from his view growers should think of Smartcane BMP as a tool to improve their business rather than as a penalty if they don’t undertake the program.
“A separate benefit is that there is a movement towards applicants for grant funding having to complete Smartcane BMP to be eligible,” he said.
The presentations were followed by a BBQ lunch which gave growers a chance to chat one-on-one with the speakers.