Rain puts an end to cane crush

The crush is over. Proserpine Sugar Mill secretary Ian McBean yesterday.
The crush is over. Proserpine Sugar Mill secretary Ian McBean yesterday.

CONSTANT wet weather in the Whitsundays has put an end to the 2010 Proserpine Sugar Mill cane crush.

The board of the co-operative made the decision after consulting with Canegrowers Proserpine this week.

Proserpine Sugar Mill company secretary Ian McBean said that about 450,000-500,000 tonnes of cane would not be harvested this year.

This equates to a loss of between $22 and $25 million to the Proserpine sugarcane industry.

Chairman of Directors, Lou Raiteri said this was an unprecedented and industry-wide issue and all key stakeholders were working together to agree and implement solutions for the next 12-18 months.

“We have the full support of our financiers and the Board are undertaking a comprehensive strategic review of the business,” he said. “To this end, the Board has engaged a highly regarded firm of advisors to work with us to review a range of options and to formulate a detailed plan for the next three years.”

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen has called on the Federal Government to provide urgent assistance to local cane growers.

He specifically requested the extension of Exceptional Circumstances provisions immediately to growers who have been negatively impacted by the ongoing rainfall.

1998 was the last time the crush was affected by bad weather, but it's not in the same ball park as this year according to Mr McBean.

It could take canegrowers two years to recover from this season's unprecedented rainfall on top of the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Ului in March this year. Canegrowers Proserpine manager Mike Porter said it was a frustrating end to a bad season.

“Leading up to Christmas, it's not a good time of the year to be giving this news out to the community,” he said.

To make matters more frustrating, the sugar prices are the best they have been in a long time.

The world indicative prices are currently about $480 dollars per tonne.

Mr McBean said the long term average up until this year was about $300 per tonne.

On the plus side, the indicative prices are more than $400 for the coming years.

Looking forward, Mr McBean said the mill's maintenance season would hopefully be shortened and intensified so that next year's crush could start as early as possible.

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