Boost for sugar mill

ONE of the driving forces of the Whitsunday economy was given a boost on Friday with the long anticipated opening of the Proserpine Sugar Mill's furfural plant - an Australian first.

The sugar industry is widely regarded as one of the most volatile around with sugar prices fluctuating wildly.

According to the mill's Chairman of Directors, Lou Raiteri, the best news the furfural plant has brought to the cane farmers of the region is that booms and busts will largely be levelled out, giving the industry the kind of stability stakeholders have long craved.

“In deciding to push ahead [with a furfural plant], we have been very focussed on risk management,” Mr Raiteri said.

“It will give the community confidence that sugarcane is a sustainable industry.”

Present for the opening of the plant, which has cost close to $50 million to get off the ground, were Proserpine Sugar Mill CEO John Power, Member for Dawson James Bidgood and Queensland Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherrin, who all spoke of the co-ordinated effort between the mill and all levels of government to get the project off the ground.

Speaking to the 200 guests at the opening, Mr Raiteri said the eight years since deciding to push ahead with a biorefinery had made for a “courageous, difficult and costly journey”.

Mr Mulherrin told the guests that biofuel was “the future” and said that Proserpine was an ideal location to launch the product in Australia because of the 400 hectares of cane production land surrounding it.

Stakeholders of the Whitsunday sugarcane industry should start to see returns from furfural production after the next crush with Mr Raiteri saying that the mill's focus would be “thinking of the members”.

While the plant's digesters still need to undergo some final fine tuning Mr Raiteri said the plant would be fully operational by the end of August or start of September this year.

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