Most Australian sugar is grown in Queensland and this season promises to be mild

Tall sugar cane crops line the roads, harvesters are in paddocks and smoke is pouring out of chimneys, signaling the start of the Queensland crush.

There is “an air of expectation” with exceptional harvests, following well-timed rains and favorable prices.

Queensland produces around 95% of Australia’s sugar cane, which is grown over 2,000 kilometers from Mosman in the north to Rocky Point, south of Brisbane.

What is the sugar shot?

This is the most vital part of the season after months of preparation by growers and mills.

Paul Schembri, former chairman of Canegrowers, the supreme body of Australian sugar cane growers, has no doubts about its importance.

“It creates cash flow, not just for the industry; these cash flows are then also transferred to the regional economies.

“There is a lot of activity.”

It is estimated that 21,000 jobs are created directly or indirectly by the industry.

Huge sugar harvests are expected in Isis after receiving good rainfall at the right time.(ABC Rural: Alys Marshall)

What happens next?

The sugar is produced at the back of a mill, and some is refined to be converted into white sugar bought from supermarkets and used in commercial food production.

80 to 85% of sugar is exported, mainly to the Asia-Pacific region.

“There is a new free trade agreement, which should lead to increased sugar volumes to the UK,” Mr Schembri said.

By selling to as many countries as possible, producers can take advantage of the best possible premiums in the market.

Prices are good

As the price of fresh produce continues to rise, consumers are unlikely to be affected by rising world sugar prices.

“Even though the price of sugar is currently higher than it has ever been, the amount of sugar that ends up in the supermarket is not huge.”

sugar cane in tray
Sugar cane is a unique and complex industry.(Rural ABC: Tom Major)

Big harvests expected

Isis Central Sugar Mill managing director Peter Hawe said there was great optimism, with a huge harvest of 1.53 million tonnes expected.

“Some of our growers have priced above $600 a ton for this season and probably already above $590 a ton for Season 23.”

After years of drought, this season is finally the one to celebrate.

“We also had a very, very good growing season in terms of weather or rain…in the lead up there was rain at the right time,” Dawe said.

A field of tall sugar canes.
There is a lot of optimism this season, with favorable weather conditions after years of drought. (ABC Rural: Alys Marshall)

Wet weather causes some disruption

However, Maryborough Canegrowers manager Cameron Waterson said wet conditions had delayed the start of the season and caused damage to internal roads.

He said the cleanup was “still a work in progress”.

Jim Crane of the Australian Sugar Millers Council said frost was also a concern in the Mackay region.

“It’s not something that … has an immediate dramatic impact,” he said.

“If the rod has been badly damaged [by frost]you probably have six to eight weeks to process it with no real impact on yield or quality. »

A field of sugar cane harvested by a tractor
Some of the first canes harvested in the Herbert region for 2022.(Supplied: Wilmar Sugar)

Promising signs for the season

The season has started at Tully, where supply, quality and yields are promising.

“They produce on average almost 100 tonnes per hectare,” Crane said.

Wilmar's Victoria Mill
Steam is turned on at Wilmar’s Victoria Mill, where sugar milling has recently begun. (Supplied: Wilmar Sugar)

“It’s a factory zone [and] we have to take a look at what is happening in the others, but the conditions have certainly been compatible with the current harvest.”

He said the starting forecast in Queensland was just over 30million tonnes but there would be a “quiet sight” to top that.

Job , updated

Rachel J. Bradford