Ending in sight for ongoing Mossman Mill purchase saga

AGRICULTURE

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Far Northern Milling directors Don Murday, Rajinder Singh, Maryann Salvetti and Liza Giudice after announcing they had entered into a conditional contract to purchase Mossman Mill from Mackay Sugar. Image: Supplied
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The Mossman Mill is just days away from again being owned by the cane growers and will continue to remain a cornerstone of Mossman and the Douglas Shire.

Today Maryann Salvetti, Chair of Far Northern Milling (FNM – which comprises Mossman Canegrowers, Tableland Canegrowers and the Australian Cane Farmers Association) said she expected to have signed contracts from the more than 100 growers this afternoon with the mill back in the hands of the growers by Friday.

The mill was owned by the growers until it was acquired by Mackay Sugar Limited (MSL) in 2012. When MSL announced last year they would be selling the mill, FNM was created and they agreed to a conditional purchase.

“Although there is still work to be done, we expect to ‘transac’ (sic) and own the mill on Friday. We have the money to purchase the mill from MSL,” she said.

“In one respect I am numb from what has been a long process; and then I will be excited once everything has been signed.


 

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“This has been a 28-month process and we are now down to the last few days to making this happen,” she said.

In late December last year, the Queensland State Government announced a support package of $25 million to Far Northern Milling Pty Ltd to assist in the establishment of an innovative bio-refinery that would help underpin the long-term future of Mossman sugar mill.

The Commonwealth Government committed $20 million subject to an acceptable business case and additional financial support from the State Government.

The State Government’s $25 million included $4 million to complete the necessary engineering studies for the bio-refinery and provide executive support.

This is a positive result in regards to the ongoing tension between the two levels of government, which now appears to have been resolved.

The proposed bio-refinery is a major component of FNM’s plans when they take over the mill.

A bio-refinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and value-added chemicals from biomass.

The bio-refinery concept is analogous to today's petroleum refinery, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.

Ms Salvetti has said the support provided by the Queensland Government will be vital to helping FNM realise their ambition to develop the bio-refinery, which will provide certainty to the Mossman Mill and the region’s canegrowers.

When MSL announced last year they would be selling Mossman Mill to focus on their Mackay assets, the local growers realised that the only way to secure the future of the mill and their farming businesses was to pool their resources and find a way to acquire the mill. 

FNM then announced it had entered into a conditional contract to buy the mill from Mackay Sugar.

Meanwhile, in February this year it was reported that the Mossman Mill could hold the key to its owner, Mackay Sugar, selling a 70 per cent stake to German sugar co-operative Nordzucker for $120 million.

In an exclusive in the Business Review of The Australian, it was reported that three of the country’s biggest mills – Marian, Farleigh and Racecourse Mills – could be in German hands if the deal is successful. Mackay Sugar also owns Pleystowe Mill.

However, for the deal to be successful, some of the arrangements included Mackay Sugar disposing of the Mossman Mill and their major financiers agreeing to a restructuring of its $200 million debt.

Nordzucker AG, headquartered in Braunschweig, Germany, is Europe’s second largest sugar manufacturer.
  
The Douglas Shire Council has provided $250,000 to help Far Northern Milling cover costs.

The payment also supports growers’ plans to create the ‘Daintree Bio-Precinct’ to tap into renewable energy opportunities and create valuable by-products at a processing facility on the land adjacent to the mill.


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