Along with my fellow members of ACFA in NSW, I was pleased to host a recent visit and meetings with the Chair, CEO and board members of ACFA in Harwood, Broadwater, and Condong mill areas.
According to the feedback, those attending were very pleased and the interactive meeting seems to be the forum that growers wish to have, rather than a long line of guest speakers who speak at you rather than with you.
Chairman of the board Don Murday gave updates on sugar politics, pricing of sugar, mill performance and closures and the interest being shown by overseas companies in the Australian industry.
Those present had the opportunity to speak with and hear updates from regional directors Gerard Puglisi from the northern region, Michael Hetherington from the southern region and CEO of ACFA, Stephen Ryan who grew up on a Clarence cane farm.
The feedback from these meetings has been excellent with growers making comments like , I find out more about the Australian and Global sugar industry in one meeting of ACFA each than I do in a year from all my other information sources .
Like our colleagues in almost all sugar cane growing regions of Australia, we have had a tough year in NSW in 2010.
Cane planting was way below normal in the three river districts with some growers having planted twice and lost the plant cane both times. They now face up to a third planting in the spring of 2011. Some, due to wet weather, did not get a window in which to plant at all. I guess, in retrospect, they were the lucky ones!
The NSW industry has joined the submission to both state and Federal governments for a one-off grant to help growers get cane back in the ground for 2012 at Condong and for 2012-3 in Harwood and Broadwater.
The success of this submission is paramount to the NSW industry getting back on its feet.
Growers would only receive funding for planting over and above the area that they normally plant. For example, say a grower normally plants 20 hectares and this year will have to plant 40 ha, then the funding would be available for 20 ha. Of course this is provided that the State and Federal Government agree to provide the funding grant.
Another major area for concern is the availability of planting material. For this year, much of the crop is very small and some growers will have no plants at all.
The NSW industry is surveying growers at the moment to see whether they have plants for themselves and if they have plants available for others.
Some of the cane that sat in water for many weeks in December and January has now shot in the eyes making at least the bottom 300mm of the stalk useless for planting, to say we have some challenges for 2011 would be an understatement, but with a bit of innovation I am confident we will get through it. I am sure we are all looking forward to a better season this year