The sweet smell of molasses is again wafting across the north as the annual sugar cane harvest kicks off in the region.

MSF Sugar’s Tableland Mill was one of the first to fire up today, with the crush getting under way.

MSF Sugar cane supply manager Mick Ward said the company’s two other northern mills, South Johnstone and Mulgrave, were both due to start on June 16.

Mr Ward said estimated throughputs across the three mills were slightly higher than last year, with cane yields returning to closer to their long term average.

South Johnstone is expected to crush 1.434 million tonnes, up from 1.247 last year, while Mulgrave’s estimate is 1.263 million tonnes up from 1.159 in 2019.

The Tableland Mill is forecast to crush 660,000 tonnes, up from 620,000 last year.

“It will be up across the board, driven by cane yield which is around closer to our long term average,” Mr Ward said.

In South Johnstone, the forecast is for 78 tonnes of cane to the hectare, up from 70 tonnes last year.

The estimated cane yield for Mulgrave has seen a good recovery, with 85 tonnes to the hectare expected, up from 76 last year.

Similarly, the estimated yield is also up for Tableland, at 95 tonnes to the hectare compared to last year’s 90.

Mr Ward said with normal conditions and allowances for wet weather, he expected the season would finish in the first week of November for Tableland and in mid-November for South Johnstone and Mulgrave.

Further south, Inkerman will be the first of Wilmar’s eight mills to start crushing next week, after wet weather on the Burdekin delayed the season by six days.