Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Full Calendar Keeping Us Busy In The Slack

By Kevin Borg, Chairman, CANEGROWERS Mackay

It might be called the slack, but it is still a busy time for growers and for CANEGROWERS Mackay, with maintenance work on farm and those important opportunities in training and information events generally programmed for this time of year.

This coming week, on March 23, CANEGROWERS Mackay’s Plane Creek Area Committee will hold its annual information meeting. Special guests this year include CANEGROWERS Chairman Owen Menkens with guest speakers CANEGROWERS Queensland industry specialists Burn Ashburner and Chris Gillitt, talking about the Business Essentials course and the benefits it can offer cane farming enterprises.

The course covers cost of production, sugar marketing, and succession planning. These are three important areas in the life-cycle of a farming business. This excellent low-cost course benefits grower members because it is important in today’s economic environment to keep skills honed to remain competitive, especially where we are dealing with rising costs of our three main inputs of fuel and fertiliser and chemicals. There are always new advances in research and technology advancing the methods of the use of these inputs to consider.

Aside from the chance to hear from our guest speakers, the event – this year being held at Sarina Bowls Club - is always a good social afternoon and a chance to get together with people from across the district.

Mackay Area Committee is presenting a series of five shed meetings in April with useful information leading into the 2023 Crush, plus a social BBQ.

Many farming families across the Mackay Sugar milling area will be heading to tonight’s productivity awards to celebrate the district’s top achieving growers and agronomists across productivity, sustainability, research and innovation. Plane Creek Productivity Services will hold their productivity awards in the coming months.

Next week – on the 24th - Mackay Whitsunday Water Quality Program’s Annual Grower Forum will be held in Koumala. We encourage growers to register for this interesting program of presentations and field demonstrations.

The growing season is progressing well, with rain coming at just the right times. It does mean another big crop is highly likely, should these conditions prevail, so the pressure is on for mills to be in great working order and ready to start at the earliest opportunity and get that crop processed in a timely and efficient manner. We do not want or need a repeat on last year of an overlong crush running past Christmas. As ever, mid-November remains the optimum time to have the crop removed. Prices are remaining well above $650 per tonne, giving us hope that we can make the best of 2023, processing a good crop in a timely fashion and take advantage of that higher price environment.

Mackay and Plane Creek Area Committees are meeting regularly with mill management for discussions about crop estimates and start dates in the lead up to the crush.

Mill performance is a critical factor in the success of the industry, as is export. Discussions continue among the growing community to express concern to grower representatives in CANEGROWERS and other organisations about Sugar Terminals Limited’s (STL) decision to remove not-for-profit bulk sugar terminal operator Queensland Sugar Limited QSL, STL giving notice on a long-standing operations agreement. CANEGROWERS Mackay recently had an opportunity to discuss issues surrounding this decision in a frank meeting held with the STL  board and management. We continue to seek a clear business plan detailing how STL propose to achieve the savings claimed. Our sugar terminals are an integral part of the sugar value chain. CANEGROWERS Mackay continues to strongly assert that this change represents an industry risk. Given our outstanding record as efficient, reliable exporters of a quality product we must ensure that any changes deliver much-improved results in cost and operations. at this stage STL have failed to convince the industry that the rewards will far outweigh the risks.

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