The harvesters are primed, the rollers are turning and the locomotives are ready to run as the Tropical North begins its sugar cane crush.
Mackay Sugar Farleigh and Racecourse Mill’s are the first to start crushing for the region while Marian Mill’s start-up has been delayed by a recent explosion in the No.1 boiler.
It is expected to start crushing by Friday as investigations continue, while Wilmar’s Proserpine and Plain Creek Mill’s begin on June 14.
He expects to harvest around 90 tonne to the hectare.
Mr Grech said the outlook for this year’s crush was much brighter than 2015 and, unlike some other regions around Mackay, his cane has not been impacted heavily by yellow canopy syndrome.
“It is looking to be a good season, we have got a dry start and we are hoping we have a good season,” he said.
“The crop looks like it is about 10 per cent up [on last year] but we will know more when we start harvesting today and then even more when the mill sends us some results on the tonnages as we get into the harvest.”
Australian sugar prices are also improving, having rallied above 17 cents a pound in recent weeks on the back of a global climb.
That equates to more than $AUS520 per tonne.
Those figures also added to Mr Grech’s optimism, although he was still cautious.
“Prices are good but let’s talk about prices when we get it into the mill and the sugar stored at the harbour … then we will be able to talk about prices,” he said.
However, he said the explosion at Marian Mill would be a concern for growers.
“With Marian Mill being down we lose a lot of capacity but we will all take the pain and go slow for a little while until they can get Marian repaired … hopefully the season won’t carry out for too long,” Mr Grech said.
Harvesting contractors ready to go
Cane harvesting contractor Travis Andrew is also ready for the season to begin.
Mr Andrew will spend the day training up a new crew and running inductions, with a particular focus on reducing harvester losses.
“We are just trying to teach them and show them what we want done and try to get as much cane from the paddock [as we can],” he said.
“We do not get paid for it on the ground, it is better in the bins … we always look at our extractor speeds and try to drop them down.”
He has harvested for Mr Grech for the last two years and said this year was shaping up well.
“We have a young crew — all of us are pretty young — and there is good cane so it is looking to be a good year,” Mr Andrew said.
Mackay Sugar expects to harvest around 5.4 million tonnes this season.