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Early signs 2021 Queensland sugar production to be impacted by highly variable seasonal conditions

26 February 2021 | Sugar millers in Queensland will be anxiously monitoring the area of sugarcane that will be available for harvest in the upcoming 2021 crushing season.

The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) says large variations in weather conditions in some of Queensland’s growing regions in recent months have raised concerns about the size and quality of the crop that could be available for processing this year.

ASMC’s Director of Industry & Government Affairs Jim Crane suggests the current crop outlook and a continuation of the LaNina weather pattern could bring about a later start in some regions to the 2021 crush.

“In the Far North, well above average rainfall across the Tully and Ingham districts has resulted in flooding and inundation of cane fields which, combined with the reduced hours of sunlight, will have restricted growth in the crop during this period,” Mr Crane said.

“In direct contrast to this the Southern region, which saw two of the five sugar mills in the region permanently closed following the completion of the 2020 crushing season, continues to be impacted by drought for the third consecutive growing season.”

However, better growing conditions have prevailed in the Burdekin and Central regions giving rise to hopes of an improvement in the crop over the 2020 levels of production.

Overall though, given the variable conditions, it appears unlikely the 2021 sugarcane crop will deliver any increase on the 2020 production of 29.33 million tonnes in Queensland, from which the sugar milling sector manufactured 4.12 million tonnes (IPS) of sugar.

“Typically, growers will complete the provision of farm information to mills by Easter and following that plans for the crush are developed,” said Mr Crane.

“One of the options for consideration by industry stakeholders in regions where the crop has been weather-impacted is to delay the start of the crush to give the crop more time to grow and mature with a view to maximising the sugar that can be manufactured from the available sugarcane.”

Looking past the 2021 season, it is expected a recent surge in world sugar prices will encourage growers to increase the area planted this year.

Outside the disastrous 2010 season, ASMC data has revealed that the area harvested for crushing in the 2020 season had slumped to just 340,614 hectares, the lowest area since 1993.

“As was the case in 2020, almost all mills in Queensland will operate with a sub-optimal cane supply in 2021, illustrating just how important ongoing efforts to boost productivity are for the industry’s future,” Mr Crane said.

ENDS

Media contact: Jim Crane 0400 991 931

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