The three NSW mills started crushing during the week of 20th June. The Richmond and Clarence Mills will have a reasonable crop for 2011 due to their two-year cane. The flooding in late 2010 and early 2011 will show its full effects in 2012, in those two mill areas.
In 2011, Condong has one of the poorest crops in living memory, with a grower estimate of 385,000t. Some farmers – affected mostly by the weather – will harvest between 30-50% of a normal crop.
The Richmond River farmers last year amalgamated four harvesting groups into one. So this year, one group will harvest about 50% of the 735,000t available at the mill – quite a big effort and in my opinion, the way of the future. The Clarence River estimate is a little over 600,000t.
All rivers had heavy rain in mid-June and will have a wet start to the season.
The period from September to December 2010 was the wettest period ever recorded at our mills since records started in the late 1800’s. It is little wonder that the crop is small and optimism is not at the highest.
The three rivers’ executives along with extension staff have done a wide consultation with farmers. This has shown that farmers who are fortunate to have reasonable to good seed cane are willing to sell it to other farmers. Some are also prepared to go off-farm to do work or planting, to help their fellow farmers back on their feet.
The CEO of the NSW Sugar milling Co-op Chris Connors has made arrangements with the receiver of the co-gen plants at Condong and Broadwater to provide steam to the mills; so as far as the farmers are concerned, it is business as usual this year, in the milling of the crop.
Farmers are looking forward to some fine weather to finish the soy bean harvest and to start the preparation of ground for planting in September.
We are looking forward to getting the crop off this year, so we can start to rebuild the industry for 2012-13.