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Mackay Sugar brings in incentives to grow farms

STRONG FUTURE: Mackay Sugar chairman Andrew Cappello, outside the Racecourse Mill, says increased throughput is crucial for the sugar industry’s viability.
STRONG FUTURE: Mackay Sugar chairman Andrew Cappello, outside the Racecourse Mill, says increased throughput is crucial for the sugar industry’s viability. Lee Constable

A HIGHER throughput is the key to Mackay Sugar's success and viability.

To achieve that there needs to be more land under cane and higher yielding crops in the region, according to Mackay Sugar chairman Andrew Cappello, who said the cane supply area had reduced by about 10,000 hectares in about 10 years.

That's the most important thing to keep the industry viable - that's throughput.

In a bid to claw some of that land back, Mackay Sugar has launched incentive schemes to help farmers to grow their businesses.

"There are two ways you can expand," Mr Cappello said. "There is horizontally, so that is expanding the land under cane, and there is vertically, which is increasing the yield of the existing crops.

"This scheme is setting it up for both horizontal and vertical expansion."

The Secure the Future pricing scheme provides growers with fixed pricing at $470 per tonne for the planting of new land over four seasons, and the Plant Loan Scheme provides an interest-free loan of $2500 for every hectare of new land planted, with the loan repayable over three seasons.

Also eligible for these packages are existing farms that have a yield of 20% below the zone average. These blocks must have a clear change in management via a sale or lease.

"In our Mackay area there are about 70,000 hectares and we have about 40 different productivity zones," Mr Cappello said.

The zones are determined by the location, type of soil and whether it is irrigated.

"So it's the low-producing farms that are the ones we are targeting," he said, adding that more cane through the mills meant a stronger future for the industry.

"That's the most important thing to keep the industry viable - that's throughput. And that is not just Mackay. It's industry wide."

Although breakdowns plagued some of Mackay's mills last season, Mr Cappello shrugged off the suggestion more tonnage would be a struggle for the company to process.

"That's a challenge we would want to have," he said.

"You see our mills are designed to go up to six million tonnes."

Mackay Sugar has set a goal of getting back 5000 hectares of the 10,000 lost.

"It will be a long stretch to get that 5000 back, but we need to have a target," Mr Cappello said.

Topics:  canegrowers sugarcane