Sugarcane field in blue sky with white sun ray
Sugarcane field in blue sky with white sun ray

EXPLAINED: Late crush start a positive for Prossie growers

THE Proserpine Mill may be the last of Wilmar Sugar's facilities to start the crushing season, but the delayed date could be a positive for canegrowers.

Wilmar announced earlier this week that crushing operations were scheduled to commence at Proserpine Mill on June 30, with an estimated 1.62 million tonnes of sugarcane to be crushed this year.

Proserpine Canegrowers manager Michael Porter said the June 30 date meant the season would run for about 22 weeks and would finish about mid-November.

He said being the last mill to start was not a disadvantage and Wilmar should be commended on the date being as early as it was given hurdles that needed to be overcome.

"The date is mutually decided between Wilmar and the growers on what will work the best," he said.

"We would normally like to start about the week after Show Whitsunday, but we lost about a week due to the fire that broke out at the mill earlier in the year," he said.

An aerial shot of Wilmar's Proserpine Mill.
An aerial shot of Wilmar's Proserpine Mill.


"With everything going on at the moment, it's actually very commendable to Wilmar that we will start on the date we are.

"A late start to the crushing season isn't necessarily a bad thing. The extra time lets the sugar content raise a little more and can actually be a good thing for growers."

Mr Porter said there was greater potential impact to the industry if a crushing season ran overtime, as it would dig into next year's crop production.

However, he said there were plans in the works at all levels of the sugar production chain to prevent "bottlenecks" occurring.

"If there is a pinch-point in the supply chain and that causes a bottleneck, it has the potential to shut a mill down for a period of time," he said.

"Most of the pinch-points have been addressed with a contingency plan in place - this ranges from the growers all the way to freight and shipping in Mackay.

"We allow for about 10 days of leeway in case we encounter wet conditions, so if we have a dry winter and minimal disruptions there's every chance the season could finish a week early and growers can start on the next year."

Mr Porter said the estimated total of crushed sugarcane was determined by a five-year rolling average.

The average removes abnormal years such as 2017, which was impacted by Cyclone Debbie.

He said closer to the crush date a more comprehensive picture of sugar content and potential sugarcane to be harvested would be known.

"Like most agriculture, our industry shouldn't be too impacted by COVID-19," he said.

"So we're telling people it's business as usual and it should be good for the local economy in a time when it's very needed."

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