Uncertainty in the sugar market due to the delayed signing of marketing contracts means major changes for one farming couple in the Burdekin.
“We’ve just got to start looking at cane as just being another crop and not the only crop that we need to grow,” Mr Spotswood said.
“We have the soil and we have the water, so don’t rely on the one industry anymore. So we have to diversify to be sustainable.”
Electricity and water costs on top of the delayed process of securing a marketing contract are making farmers think twice about planting new crops.
“I think just because it’s being dragged out we’re already wanting to plant cane now,” Mr Spotswood said.
“And it’s unseen where we’re going to sell the crop in 2017.
“It’s very hard to manage a cash flow when there’s fluctuations.
“It happens in every industry and we just want to broaden our risk.”
The Spotswoods’ plans to diversify come as the sugar industry experiences one of its highest world future price levels in many years — at US$0.17 a pound.
Queensland Sugar treasurer Steve Stone said it was because the industry was heading into a deficit cycle.
However, many cane farmers, like the Spotswoods, were unable to take advantage of the high prices, because many were still waiting to lock in marketing contracts.
Diversifying and value-adding
In addition to cane, the Spotswoods’ farm an impressive range of horticultural crops and run cattle.
“We’re actually just starting to use our cattle and to rotational crop as well,” Ms Spotswood said.
“We’re looking at to hopefully being able to sell the whole beast as one, as a whole, we’re just starting to begin that process at the moment.”
Organic farming is a major emphasis at the Spotswood farm with a large portion of their land organically certified.
“It becomes about value-adding,” Mr Spotswood said.
“I think we’re all trying to value-add all the way down the supply chain.
“We plan on building a farming industry that is sustainable.
“We have a lot of wetlands and marine life in our property too.”