Water and water. Possibly we should call ourselves organic farmers in this region. Water is surely organic and it surely one of the big inputs to our sugar cane farming. Once again irrigation water pricing has become a major factor in the future of the sugar industry in the Southern Region. Queensland Competition Authority price path proposals have been met with stunned disbelief.
In rounded-off numbers these proposals mean $100 per megalitre for channel water customers. Four Ml/ha is a good allocation in the Region. On the other side, river water consumers would have a price fall to the lowest per megalitre ever – a contrast to other differential pricing proposals but equally as astounding. Many people will be checking the price of pipes and where to lay them through the neighbours’ riparian blocks, just to see if it’s possible to do it cheaper.
QCA spokesmen have outlined the cost structure and have identified electricity for pumping as the largest single cost. What the carbon tax will do when mixed in here is not a pleasant prospect. This is one of our region’s biggest issues and to take it up to the Queensland Government will require all rural industries to gather together their total economic worth and use this value to contain the governmental water and energy monoliths.
A brighter part of the water picture is rain. Almost perfect scheduling by those in charge of rain has seen some of the most vigorous growth in the ratoons. Last year’s autumn plant has also kicked in and is most impressive. The clear days between bouts of rain have made the irrigation most effective, which at least makes the cost somewhat more bearable – in contrast to last year when the sunshine was missing.
Rotation crops are still being worked on in the region. Soybean varieties, either earlier or later, are in the offing and larger seed varieties also. The earlier varieties are for allowing autumn cane planting and the later for avoiding the clash with ratooning. The larger seed size is for a developing niche. As ever, the return on soybean may not be sky-high, but the rotation is a real necessity. From a field walk recently, contact with soybean breeders shows a critical level of quantity is being watched with regard to the new varieties. Not enough tonnes grown here and the RD& E will be lost. Sounds familiar doesn’t it!
Recent speculation from Brisbane regarding the future ownership of local milling assets has been quite publicly refuted by ISIS Central Sugar Mill. No offers are on the table! So rumours quashed and that sort of thing. Maryborough farmers are just waiting for it all to settle down with Mitr Pohl. As would anyone, they are just hoping for stability and a fair deal. Bundaberg Sugar has, in this Region , not generated rumour and farmers are simply looking forward to a good growing season and good prices.
Looking at another aspect to R.D. & E. , daily papers have taken to magazine style lift-outs for rural news. Great , I am so pleased to see us back in the ordinary world, but there is a kicker. Check if the author has any speciality in rural affairs. Recent articles floating about in the Southern Region have me wondering if the average hard pressed journo has the time to get the technical facts dead right. Are we going to allow ourselves to take make decisions on jazzy media coverage or stick with our sometimes pedestrian but accurate technical journals? How about, local articles for local farmers by local extension people, with an article for each region, but a common issue for all Regions.
Regards and Happy New and good growing Year