Another tough year in NSW.
I do hope I will be in a position to pass on some positive news in 2012, as NSW starts it recovery from some of the worst weather conditions for cane growing, in a life time.
Condong finished the crush in early October despite only crushing five days a week and in the last few weeks moving to a four and a half day week (maintenance on Monday morning).
At this stage, the prospects for the 2012 season are good for an average crop – weather permitting.
We have had the biggest planting program this year in many years, with it all showing excellent prospects for the 2012 harvest.
This follows a year when some growers planted in 2010 and lost cane twice.
The NSW sugar milling co-op provided loans of $1,000 per hectare(at a very competitive interest rate) to members across the three rivers as an incentive to plant as much cane as possible. While some did not choose to take this loan up, many did, and we thank the Co-op for this initiative.
At Condong, the 2011 crop was the smallest crop for over 60 years, at 312,000 tonnes of cane.
At the time of writing, Broadwater was still harvesting and due to finish mid-December – weather permitting. Feedback from the Broadwater growers is that they will be choosing to leave some cane for three year old rather than to harvest and loose the stools by harvesting in wet conditions.
Broadwater has also had a very large plant this year, trying to make up for the lack of planting under the wet conditions last year.
The harvest this year, while not their biggest, has been OK for most growers. Next year is when they will have the reduced crop, which could be similar to the harvest that the Tweed produced this year, The impact of this on growers and the mill will be enormous as it will be around 30% of their record harvest of 1.2million tonnes.
Harwood was also still harvesting, at the time of writing and due to finish around the same time as the Richmond. They will also have a reasonable crop this year but will have the same problems as the Richmond next year.
I believe that Harwood may also be considering a shorter harvesting week for 2012.The growers will have a tough time for the next several years as they try to get their production back on track.
The growers on the Clarence, many of whom were unable to plant at all last year, have planted a double amount; that is, the area they did not plant last year plus this year’s plant – a very significant financial burden.
The chair of the co-op, Ian Causley made mention at the Co-op’s AGM that those who are planting into wider rows with beds (dual-row on 1.9 – 2m) have had less damage that those on the conventional 1.5m spacing.
The future for NSW is still good as we recover from the worst set of weather conditions for cane growing, ever experienced in this state.
On the up side we will have 5 new varieties for release next year.
We are working with our mills on continuous improvement as well as with the transport system and in the field.
The age of growers is still a concern as always; although leasing, corporate farming and share farming may be an answer to this.
I do wish all growers a Merry Christmas and a year ahead that is well on the road to the recovery of the NSW Industry.