Sunny Season Ahead

The NSW Sugar industry will kick off the 2021 crushing season with an outlook that can only be described
as sunny.

The three sugar mills across the Northern Rivers; at Condong, Broadwater and Harwood; will fire into
action from the 8th of June, following an intensive off-season maintenance program.

The estimate for the overall crop tonnage is still uncertain following a very wet but warm growing season

that including some flooding.
The feeling amongst growers is buoyant, with the prospect of their cane price for the season being as high
as $37 to $38 per tonne, depending on CCS (sugar content).

Chairman and cane grower, Mr Jim Sneesby said: “The news of a significant lift in cane price, is definitely
instilling a positive feeling within the local sugar industry.”

Almost 100% of the planned sugar make is already locked into the Sunshine Sugar sales program, with
customer orders in place Australia-wide.

Sunshine Sugar’s CEO, Mr Chris Connors recently addressed cane growers to share the positive news, not
only in regard to cane price, but also to give an update on the commercial developments made across a
number of diversification projects, including botanical water and a gourmet mushroom product – both of
which will utilise assets within the cane stalk to produce alternate products and new income streams.

“This is an exciting time for our local sugar industry;” commented Mr Connors. “Agriculture is seeing a
surge in interest and the NSW sugar industry can demonstrate a proven track record in being sustainable,
providing long-term returns to its growers and a solid plan for future growth; making it an appealing
proposition for farmers and investors alike.“

Qld cane crush on track for 30 milllion tonnes

Queensland’s cane crop is now tipped to reach almost 30 million tonnes, with the 2021 harvest and crush to start next week.

Australian Sugar Milling Council chief executive officer David Pietsch said 29.96mt was expected, exceeding the 29.33mt crush in 2020.

Queensland’s sugar mills manufactured 4.1mt of sugar last year.

“In February, ASMC was sceptical about the prospects for the 2021 crop to be bigger than 2020 with variable seasonal conditions, but we are now confident the crop will beat the 2020 and 2019 seasons and finish closer to 30 million tonnes,” Mr Pietsch said.

The tonnages remained well short of the Queensland milling sector’s crushing capacity of about 35 million tonnes.

“The improved crop signals somewhat of a recovery in industry confidence and highlights the ongoing importance of work across the sugar industry to improve productivity and continually drive efficiency through the production chain,” Mr Pietsch said.

“The 2021 crop forecast is good news for farmers, harvesters, transporters, suppliers, and for our sugar mill employees crushing the cane and manufacturing the sugar.”

The ASMC regional forecasts project:

– 6.72mt in the northern region (including Tableland, Mossman, Mulgrave, South Johnstone and Tully mill areas).

– 12.35mt in the Herbert-Burdekin region.

– 8.24mt in the Mackay-Proserpine region.

– 2.65mt in the southern region (including Bundaberg, Isis and Rocky Point mill areas).

Mr Pietsch said it was the first time in more than 125 years that neither the Bingera mill at Bundaberg or the Maryborough mill will be operating.

“Like other Queensland industries and businesses, the sugar industry had had to contend with the impact of COVID-19 on its local production and global markets,” he said.

“However, the sugar industry has hung tough and our relative stability now comes at a time of great uncertainty around sugar production among other global producers such as Brazil, India and Thailand.”

Sweet achievement as Bundaberg company makes ‘world first’ cane harvester

A Bundaberg company says it has manufactured the world’s first sugarcane harvester powered by a Stage 5 diesel engine and hopes to develop an export market for them in Japan.

Canetec has been developing the machine for the past 12 months in response to requests from Japan for a small harvester suited to its small fields and environmental and carbon emission standards.

Its chief executive officer Glenn Soper said the company had decided to take up the challenge and the first YT4000-F model harvester is now undergoing field trials in advance of its scheduled arrival in Japan on April 15.

“Their current small machine harvesters are very basic. They have open cabs and little to none of the technical capabilities of harvesters that we see in Australia,” Mr Soper said.

“Our (Japanese) customers were requesting a new (small) model that would fit with all their environmental parameters such as having a Stage 5 engine and being under 128 horsepower (95.44 kilowatts).

FIELD TESTING: The Canetec YT4000-F model harvester equipped with a Tier 5 engine being tested under field conditions last week.

FIELD TESTING: The Canetec YT4000-F model harvester equipped with a Tier 5 engine being tested under field conditions last week.

“The YT4000-F is 121 horsepower (90.2kW) so we have been able to deliver that as well and provide a huge upgrade in driver comfort, harvesting efficiency and the machine’s technical capabilities.”

Canetec is importing 4.5-litre QSB Tier 5 Cummins engines from the United States to power the machines which are capable of harvesting around 33 tonnes an hour.

Australia hasn’t yet regulated emissions from non-road engines but a number of overseas countries have moved to Stage 4 and are planning to go to Stage 5.

Project engineer Peter Lambrides said it had taken 12 months to build the new model due to worldwide shortages of materials because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The cabin and track system are from Europe and the engine came from the US but the rest of the machine has been built locally,” he said.

“All the sheet metal has been locally welded and put together and all the gearboxes are made here In Bundaberg.”

Canetec has been building large- and medium-sized harvesters in Bundaberg for more than a decade and exports a range of harvester models locally and to Japan and the Asia Pacific.

Fittingly, the company operates out of the old factory site of Austoft once owned by the Toft brothers who developed Australia’s first sugar cane harvester in the early 1940s.

Case IH bought their company in 1996 and in 2004 Austoft production moved from Bundaberg to global sugar powerhouse, Brazil.

Mr Soper said a group of locals who included Bundeberg legend Cliff Fleming, co-founder and owner of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, decided to buy the site to keep manufacturing jobs in the south-east Queensland coastal town.

The company now shares the site with waste-collection truck maker Superior Pak which provides work for Cantec staff who also do other manufacturing and fabricating jobs for local customers.

The company now produces about one cane harvester a month but Mr Soper hoped the Japanese market for the small harvesters could reach 20 units a year.

“We think it’s going to be a volume machine,” he said.

Isis Mill builds facility to cater to Maryborough cane

A $2.5 million Federal Government grant will boost the sugarcane industry allowing cane from Maryborough and further afield to be processed at the Isis Central Sugar Mill.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the funding will be used to build a transloader facility in Childers to transport sugarcane from Maryborough, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast.

“The closure of the Maryborough Sugar Mill left a number of growers in the region in limbo,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“An agreement with Isis Central Sugar Mill, which is being finalised, means that cane will now be crushed, however, infrastructure is required in order to get the sugarcane to the Isis Mill.”

“The $2.5 million Community Development Grant will go towards the construction of a transloader to offload the cane. It will then be taken by rail to the Isis Mill.”

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said he had been a strong advocate for the sugar industry.

“The Federal Government has provided $6.2 million in funding to Isis Central Sugar Mill in recent years: $5 million to construct 36km of cane railway track from Cordalba to Wallaville and $1.2 million for the Gayndah Regional Irrigation Development project,” Mr Pitt said.

“It’s unfortunate the Queensland State Labor Government hasn’t shown the sugarcane industry any support, in what is ultimately, a transport issue.

“It’s growers and workers at Maryborough Sugar Mill, in the Member for Maryborough – who is also the Assistant Minister for Regional Roads – electorate, who are effected by the mill closure and the State Government still has done nothing.

“The Federal Government have been doing the heavy lifting right through the Covid pandemic, and continues to, with the State Government refusing to assist in getting the sugarcane from Maryborough, Gympie and the Sunshine Coast to Isis Mill.”

Isis Mill matches funding amount

Isis Central Sugar Mill chief executive officer John Gorringe said the Federal Government’s $2.5 million in funding would be matched by the Isis Mill.

“We’re very grateful to the Federal Government and our local Federal Member Keith Pitt for continuing to support the Isis Central Sugar Mill,” he said.

Almost an additional 600,000 tonnes of cane is expected to be transported from the Maryborough Mill and surrounding areas for crushing at Isis.

“The transloader facility, which we expect to have operational before the crushing season starts, will allow Isis Mill to take cane from Maryborough and surrounding areas.”

Preliminary excavation works are currently underway to accommodate a tramline extension to the transloader facility which will be located near the Childers QFRS building and Industrial Estate off Goodwood Road.

The work involves construction of a spur line where the current Isis Mill rail line crosses the Bruce Highway south of Childers.

The Isis Central Sugar Mill crushed just short of 809,000 tonnes in the 2020 season which again was impacted by prolonged dry conditions.

MSF Sugar’s Maryborough mill closes down

MSF Sugar’s Maryborough mill has crushed its last cane with the company announcing it was decommissioning the facility.

Instead, contracted sugar cane will be crushed elsewhere from 2021.

The decision comes after Rural Funds Management purchased 5409 hectares of MSF Sugar’s cane growing land in the district earlier this year, with a view to replanting with macadamia nuts.

Canegrowers Maryborough chairman Jeff Atkinson said while the news was disappointing, an agreement between MSF and Isis Central Sugar Mill was advanced for the cane to instead be processed at Childers.

“MSF Sugar has a responsibility to ensure growers are not disadvantaged and that arrangements are made to satisfy its obligations under our current Cane Supply Agreement with the company,” Mr Atkinson said.

“We remain confident that there is a bright future for growing sugar cane in the Maryborough region, and we will engage constructively to ensure that happens.”

Sugar mills crush out for 2020

More than 29 million tonnes of sugar cane has been crushed in Queensland this year with the season set to close this week.

The last bins will be tipped at Mackay Sugar’s Farleigh, Marian and Racecourse mills, signalling an end to the 2020 season.

While weather conditions have varied across growing regions, impacting total yield, this year’s production is up slightly on the 28.4 million tonnes crushed in 2019.

In North Queensland, the last of Wilmar’s eight mills crushed out at the end of November, despite a rain delayed start to the season.

Victoria Mill in the Herbert region processed the last bin of cane on November 29, several hours after the last cane went through the rollers at nearby Macknade Mill.

Wilmar general manager operations Mike McLeod said Wilmar processed 14.925 million tonnes of sugar cane this year, to manufacture more than two million tonnes of raw sugar.

“Our total throughput was slightly down on pre-season estimates due to dry conditions in three of our four milling regions,” Mr McLeod said.

“The Herbert was the exception. The crop grew on from in-season rain and the total volume crushed in the Herbert was 90,000 tonnes above the original estimate.”

Mr McLeod paid tribute to growers, harvesting contractors and Wilmar employees for getting this year’s crop off, despite rain delays and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Herbert, 4.25m/t was crushed with an average CCS of 13.2 units. The Burdekin mills processed 7.9m/t (CCS 14.61), Proserpine crushed 1.54m/t (CCS 14.35) and Plane Creek crushed 1.23m/t (CCS 14.23).

Further north, Tully Sugar’s mill crushed out on December 3, after a wet start to the season.

Canegrowers Tully deputy chairman Jamie Dore said just over 2.46m/t of cane had been crushed, which was equivalent to the 10-year average for the region.

“It was very wet at the start and very dry at the finish,” Mr Dore said.

“It was pretty good all round with a lot of crop variability, which was weather related.

“Some had good rain and had good tonnages, and some were well below average in southern areas like Kennedy and Bilyana where the dry affected the crop.”

Mr Dore said CCS averaged 12.96 and the mill had performed well during the season.

In the Far North, the grower owned Mossman Mill finished their second season running operations after buying the facility back from Mackay Sugar in 2019.

Far Northern Milling director Maryann Salvetti said their 70 growers from the Mossman and Tablelands region had provided over 800,000 tonnes of cane, with the season ending on October 23.

“The weather was very kind to us, the crop was down a little bit mainly because of the dry early in the season on the coast where they don’t have the ability to irrigate, but overall it was a good season,” Ms Salvetti said.