With the SOI sitting in a neutral phase, the wet tropics have been basking in bright sunshine. The 2011 slack season will go into the record books as a disaster. The early onset of the monsoon season, heavy rain, no sunshine, two cyclones – one was the severe Cat 5 TC Yasi – and a disastrous 2010 season has left most farmers stunned in looking for a way forward.
Ratoon crops and some stand over cane which did not survive the prolonged wet have been ploughed out and are being prepped for replanting, along with fallow ground from the failed 2010 planting. Good quality planting material, especially in the cyclone affected areas, is a rarity and farmers are sourcing plants off-farm. There is further concern over the availability of planting material for plough-out and replant in 2011. Farmers who have planted have commented that they have cut a larger area of plants than the area they are planting.
All mills in the area commenced crushing by the end of June. Due to damage to mill infrastructure from cyclone Yasi, Tully delayed crushing until late June. The Tully mill estimate is 1.5Mt. Maryborough Sugar mills, Mulgrave and South Johnstone started late June. The Mulgrave estimate is 956kt, while the South Johnstone estimate is 958kt. This includes the now closed Babinda mill area. The Tableland mill started in late May, working on an estimate of 680kt.