Weather plays role as sugar production levels fall


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) is expecting to see sugar production levels fall to their lowest levels for seven or eight years across the state with some mills finishing their crush as early as late October if the dry weather persists.

And the Mossman Mill, recently acquired by Far Northern Milling, is also expecting a shorter season.

“We are expecting to see the crushing season end in the third week of October, in contrast to last year when it ran until the second week of November.

“We are also expecting production to be down by 8-12 per cent across the board, although this could change as we are still crushing,” said Bronwyn Dwyer, Chief Executive Officer, Daintree Bio Precinct Ltd.

ASMC’s Director, Industry Affairs, Jim Crane, said the weather was very mixed at the start of the year: too wet for some and very dry for others.

“The prolonged dry conditions since June have been very good for harvesting, but the lack of rain has contributed to the State’s initial crop estimate falling by close to 800,000 tonnes or three percent according to our latest crush statistics,” he said.

In Mossman’s case, Ms Dwyer said the lack of sunshine hours had retarded the crop.

According to the ASMC, Queensland’s 21 sugar mills have manufactured over two million tonnes of raw sugar to date this season.

With more than 50 per cent of this season’s sugarcane already harvested, the mills have been operating 24/7 to crush this year’s cane crop and produce raw sugar.

The majority of Queensland’s raw sugar production is exported to sugar refineries in a variety of destinations in Asia including Australia’s major trading partners in South Korea, Indonesia and Japan.

“At the mid-point of what has been a very dry crushing season, mills in Queensland look likely to produce somewhere around 4 million tonnes of raw sugar,” said Mr Crane. 

Fast facts:

  • Sugarcane is crushed to produce raw sugar, predominantly for export to sugar refineries in the Asian market; 
  • Key markets for Queensland raw sugar include South Korea, Indonesia and Japan; 
  • Last year Queensland produced 4.3 million tonnes (mt) of raw sugar with the forecast for 2019 likely to be closer to 4 mt; and 
  • 51 per cent of the sugarcane crush is now complete after 14 weeks (of forecast 29.2 mt).

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