THE sugar industry says the rain bringing La Nina weather system is a cause for concern with more than 30 per cent of the 2020 cane crop still to be harvested.

Jim Crane from the Australian Sugar Milling Council said the confirmation of a La Nina weather pattern heightened the risk of rain disrupting the final weeks of the crush.

“La Nina-influenced light rain will be manageable and welcome, but heavier falls could be challenging towards the end of the crush,” Mr Crane said.

“That being said, spring rain can set the foundation for an improved 2021 crop across most of the cane growing regions.

“Thanks to the unseasonal winter rains already experienced this year, we are currently on track to realise the forecast crop size of 30.9 million tonnes.”

Mr Crane said there was almost a million tonnes of cane more this year, but the sugar content is tracking below the 2019 average. A continuation of this trend will mean that 2020 raw sugar production was likely to be only slightly up on last year’s 4.28 million tonnes, he said.

“2020 has certainly been a year of challenges to date, but business continuity planning and early development of comprehensive COVID-19 related workplace health plans have enabled sugar mills to operate, in large part, as normal,” Mr Crane said.

“With many innovative adjustments, sugar milling companies have largely been able to operate with a full complement of staff throughout the pandemic, allowing us to continue to make an important economic contribution to many regional communities.”

The sugar industry generates more than $4 billion to the Queensland economy each year and supports more than 23,000 jobs.