The start of this year’s cane harvest in New South Wales has been delayed by at least two weeks due to heavy rain.
Harvest in the Clarence Valley was due to commence on June 14, but wet weather has held harvesters back.
NSW Canegrowers’ Association president, Ross Farlow, said the lower Clarence has had a substantial rain event.
“Around 270–300mm of rain and we’ve now got these ongoing showers that are keeping conditions very, very wet,” he said.
“We need to burn our crops still at this stage and there’s just no way that we would get burns.
“We’re able to harvest our cane under quite wet conditions but we’ve also got farm tracks and crossings and the farm infrastructure that we have to try to look after as well.
“There’s no point burning the crops and harvesting it if we can’t get it to our cane delivery pads, so it’s a whole harvest operation we have to take into consideration.”
The sugar industry is hoping weather conditions improve this week allowing harvesting in the Clarence to start next Monday.
“We’ve had meetings just recently and we’re going to have another meeting on Friday just to see how the rest of the week fines up,” Mr Farlow said.
“Hopefully the weather reports are that it will fine up towards the end of the week, and if that’s the case Friday’s meeting will firm a start date for next Monday [June 26].
“We would look to get our fires away on Sunday night and start harvesting on the Monday.”
Growers in the Tweed and Richmond Valleys also have a tentative start day for next Monday.
Mr Farlow said the cane crops across the region had pulled up surprisingly well after the March–April flood.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the Tweed crop opens up after their major flooding event that certainly knocked Murwillumbah around and the major flooding issues that they had.
“There’s a bit of an unknown quantity about how that’ll open up but time will tell on that one.
“But the crops look very sound on the Richmond and Clarence and we’re looking forward to a very successful season.”
The forecast for this year’s crop in NSW is 2 million tonnes of cane.