Queensland’s cane crop is now tipped to reach almost 30 million tonnes, with the 2021 harvest and crush to start next week.

Australian Sugar Milling Council chief executive officer David Pietsch said 29.96mt was expected, exceeding the 29.33mt crush in 2020.

Queensland’s sugar mills manufactured 4.1mt of sugar last year.

“In February, ASMC was sceptical about the prospects for the 2021 crop to be bigger than 2020 with variable seasonal conditions, but we are now confident the crop will beat the 2020 and 2019 seasons and finish closer to 30 million tonnes,” Mr Pietsch said.

The tonnages remained well short of the Queensland milling sector’s crushing capacity of about 35 million tonnes.

“The improved crop signals somewhat of a recovery in industry confidence and highlights the ongoing importance of work across the sugar industry to improve productivity and continually drive efficiency through the production chain,” Mr Pietsch said.

“The 2021 crop forecast is good news for farmers, harvesters, transporters, suppliers, and for our sugar mill employees crushing the cane and manufacturing the sugar.”

The ASMC regional forecasts project:

– 6.72mt in the northern region (including Tableland, Mossman, Mulgrave, South Johnstone and Tully mill areas).

– 12.35mt in the Herbert-Burdekin region.

– 8.24mt in the Mackay-Proserpine region.

– 2.65mt in the southern region (including Bundaberg, Isis and Rocky Point mill areas).

Mr Pietsch said it was the first time in more than 125 years that neither the Bingera mill at Bundaberg or the Maryborough mill will be operating.

“Like other Queensland industries and businesses, the sugar industry had had to contend with the impact of COVID-19 on its local production and global markets,” he said.

“However, the sugar industry has hung tough and our relative stability now comes at a time of great uncertainty around sugar production among other global producers such as Brazil, India and Thailand.”