The Burdekin sugar crushing season is finally over but this year’s season is set to start without any security as growers toy with the idea of signing supply contracts.
Inkerman Mill was the last to finish, on Tuesday last week, which rounded off the season for the Burdekin and Wilmar Sugar Mills as a whole.
The eight Wilmar mills crushed a total of 16.86 million tonnes, at more than a million tonnes more than the pre-season forecast.
Cane supply and grower relations general manager Paul Giordani said Wilmar’s four Burdekin mills had crushed a total of 8.71 million tonnes this season — the fourth largest crop ever processed in the Burdekin region.
“We lost a lot of time to wet weather in 2016, but that in-season rain also produced one of the region’s biggest crops on record,” he said.
“We ended up with about 410,000 tonnes more cane than originally forecast. It’s a tribute to all sectors of the industry that we’ve been able to get the whole crop off the ground.”
Mr Giordani extended his thanks to Inkerman Mill employees, growers and harvesting contractors for persevering through to the end of a long and challenging season.
He said Wilmar Sugar was committed to an extensive capital and maintenance program at all of its mills over the coming months, despite the shorter maintenance season.
And while it’s a huge relief for some farmers to have finally finished their season, they are still no step closer to a resolution of who will market their sugar.
Canegrowers Queensland chair Paul Schembri said 4.3 million tonnes of raw sugar was crushed this season and was worth around $2 billion when sold on the export and domestic markets.
“Rain has been falling across most districts and we are looking forward to the 2017 season with optimism,” Mr Schembri said.
“World sugar prices remain strong on predictions the market is sitting on an 8 million tonne global deficit.
“The only cloud on our horizon is the lack of collective Cane Supply Agreements for our members in Wilmar Sugar milling districts meaning the company is short around 14 million tonnes of cane for when its mills start up again.
“Six of the seven milling companies operating in Queensland have negotiated commercial arrangements for the next season and we want nothing more than to see everyone’s futures secured in this way.”
Burdekin Cane Growers District Group spokesman Russ McNee could not comment on the current negotiations for a sugar cane supply agreement.