Upcoming cane crush season saved by Cyclone Debbie
SHE may have decimated our northern neighbours but Cyclone Debbie's quick visit to the Fraser Coast made all the difference to our struggling cane growers.
While the cane isn't quite the height farmers would prefer, Canegrowers Maryborough manager Cameron Waterson predicts the upcoming season, which starts late next month, will bring in 600,000 tonnes between Gympie and Bundaberg.
"Prior to Debbie, we would have been lucky to have harvested 400,000 tonnes of cane," Mr Waterson said.
"The natural event only brought very good impact; we missed most of the high wind and got beneficial rainfall."
Before Debbie, growers were looking at a worse season than 2014, one of the lowest points when only about 475,000 tonnes was crushed compared to about 791,000 tonnes last year.
The start of the crush has been slightly delayed to give crops some more time to flourish, but it won't be enough to totally reverse the impact of a lengthy drought.
Maryborough Sugar Factory General Manager Stewart Norton said many crops were measuring two feet where they should be six feet by now.
"It is certainly greening up since rain in March, April and May, but we are well behind growth," Mr Norton said.
"Dry land farmers are struggling more than those in irrigated properties.
"Some may have to holdover until next year."
Mr Waterson explained the shorter size of crop was unlikely to impact the sugar's quality.
"It doesn't necessarily have a direct impact," he said.
"As it's converting juice into sugar, you can still have a good sugar content, just not the volume.
"We won't be be able to tell our sugar content until we start harvesting.
Sugar is currently worth about 13c per pound in US dollars, compared to 23c late last year.
Growers are hoping the price will reach at least 18c in coming weeks.