The cane industry has welcomed the news that a grant application for $3.5 million to conduct harvest efficiency had been successful.
The Primary Industry Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the grant in Mackay and was quite clear, this was not an election promise, but it did highlight the LNP’s commitment to research and development.
“This funding is committed, it was already allocated prior to caretaker into the research and development bucket,” he said.
Harvesting losses cost sugar industry $150 million a year
Chairman of Sugar Research Australia (SRA) Dr Ron Swindells said they applied for the funding through Rural R&D for Profit Programme, to research ways of reducing cane harvesting losses.
Dr Swindells said cane harvesting losses cost the industry big dollars and the funding would assist in research that would look to seriously reduce those losses for the grower, harvesting contractor, and mill.
“The best estimate of losses is $150 million per annum — that’s a big number,” he said.
“They occur in a variety of ways, from the way cane is cut to cane left in the paddock after harvesting.”
He said harvesting losses affected all stages of sugar production from the cane yield in paddock to mill efficiency and raw sugar quality.
Dr Swindells said the grant was a commitment for $3.5 million over the next five years, and had nothing to do with the Federal election.
All up, funding for the harvest efficiency project comes to $5 million.
Reducing harvesting losses involves collaboration
Dr Swindells said collaboration between growers, harvesting contractor, mills and scientists with SRA would be the key to a successful project improving harvest efficiency.
“It may involve changes to farming practices, and it will certainly, if it is successful, involve changes to the way harvesting is carried out,” he said.
“And at the end of the day the benefits are going to have to be shared in some sort of tripartite negotiation,” he said.
“If we could get back to losses that are less than 5 per cent, then that is a significant achievement given that in some cases the losses are as high as 25 per cent.”