Thursday, July 11, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Mitigating Issues For Local Farmers In The Central District

In the heart of Queensland's sugarcane industry, QCAR’s Central District plays a pivotal role in supporting and advocating for its members, particularly amidst the many challenges faced by local farmers across Mackay, Proserpine, Plane Creek (Sarina) and surrounding areas.

QCAR Central evolved from a strategic collaboration between AgForce Cane Limited (ACL) and Burdekin Cane and Agricultural Organisation (BCAO). A merger followed with a strong showing of growers at a roadshow calling for a statewide entity, and QCAR was born.
This union was driven by a shared goal to bolster organisational strength and visibility within Queensland's agriculture sector, all while providing comprehensive representative services and support tailored specifically for cane farmers across the state.

QCAR Central District Committee Chair, Chris Punzel joined the organisation, focussed on strengthening the presence and influence of QCAR across the region. Under his leadership, he aims to enhance the sustainability and prosperity of QCAR members, the broader industry and the communities they live and work in.

Since Chris joined the organisation, QCAR has successfully negotiated a new Cane Supply and Processing Agreement (CSPA) with Mackay Sugar, and secured affiliations with key industry bodies including establishing and progressing the integration of peak Australian sugarcane industry body the Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) with QCAR. “This expands our representative footprint and adds the critical expertise and experience in state and national representation,” Chris said.

“QCAR’s focus is to provide an A-class service to members from the ground up, and to continue striving for the sustainability of this industry with the coexistence of sugar mills,” said Chris.

Fundamental to QCAR Central District’s mission is the proactive management of the challenges faced by local cane producers. The unpredictable wet season significantly impacts the crushing process, causing delays that affect productivity and revenue.  

Currently, key partners in the region are facing significant operational constraints compounded by ongoing staffing difficulties which is said to be common across all coastal milling areas.

“Wet weather is a big-ticket item that growers face because it slows the crushing process down. Another factor is the difficultly of acquiring good quality workers,” Chris emphasised.

Navigating these challenges requires a delicate balance of negotiation and collaboration, which is why QCAR stresses the importance of cooperative efforts between millers and growers, to optimise operations and mitigate the impact of weather-related disruptions.  

The organisation advocates for improved workforce strategies to attract and retain skilled labour, essential for maintaining operational efficiency during critical harvesting periods.

With plans to expand further throughout the district, QCAR is pro-actively growing its membership base and pursuing tailored cane supply agreements through collaborative negotiations with millers, in consultation with growers. “We are aiming to negotiate a new cane supply agreement in the Central region for the Proserpine and Plane Creek districts ahead of the upcoming season (2025).

Our proactive approach aims to identify opportunities to pursue efficiencies to streamline operations and ultimately ensure the long-term viability of the sugarcane industry state-wide.

By advocating for members’ interests, negotiating strategic agreements and fostering collaborative relationships across the industry, QCAR Central District is playing a vital role in mitigating challenges and promoting sustainable growth.  

As Queensland's sugarcane industry navigates uncertainties, QCAR Central District stands determined to lead, ensuring that the voices and needs of its members are heard and addressed effectively.

“Our number one priority is our members, and our positive relationships with key stakeholders can only enhance what we can deliver. Wherever it is possible we will strive for improvement and continuously evaluate the diverse needs of our cane community.”

QCAR Central District Chairman Chris Punzel with Comitee Member Steve McKeering and Deputy Chairman Stephen Fordyco. Image supplied

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