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Maryborough canegrower anxious about onfarm cost rises

CHALLENGES: Yerra soya bean and cane farmer Darryl Cronau pictured with a healthy sugar crop (above), and in a muddy patch of cane that has struggled in changing weather conditions (right).
CHALLENGES: Yerra soya bean and cane farmer Darryl Cronau pictured with a healthy sugar crop (above), and in a muddy patch of cane that has struggled in changing weather conditions (right). Robyne Cuerel

CANE farmer Darryl Cronau has spent the past 34 years on the land, but he says dry weather and rising costs are making it crunch time for farmers everywhere.

His 280ha property in Yerra, about 25km west of Maryborough, normally grows about 15,000 to 19,000 tonnes of sugar cane every year - but this year only 30-40% of the farm is expected to be harvested when the crush begins in late August.

"We'll just have to see how we go - make decisions as we go on," Mr Cronau said.

It's also the first year in two decades of growing his farm has had a failed soya bean crop.

"Normally we have 2.5 tonne a hectare," he said.

"That's just another loss of income we are faced with."

According to Mr Cronau, the tough times are only just beginning and he predicts things will get worse from June onwards.

"We had a reasonable crop last year, with reasonable prices of sugar," he said.

"When that runs out, the next 12 months, that's when it's going to be crunch time for every farmer."

Mr Cronau said it was more important than ever that the focus remained on the drought.

"The effects of the drought haven't been realised by a lot of the people who support the growers in town," he said.

Mr Cronau said he wished he could explain to city people what life was like for those living on the land.

"If you asked a city person to front up to work but the boss didn't have any money to pay them for a month, they'd say 'see you later'," he said

"But that's what plenty of farmers are going to face."

Mr Cronau said many farmers would continue to experience financial hardship for a long time into the future.

"There won't be many cane farmers putting money into superannuation and all those things, because they don't have the money to spend because they're self-employed," he said.

"I think there are a lot of politicians who make decisions on our behalf who are living on another planet.

"They don't understand what our costs are."

Mr Cronau said costs of everything from tractor registrations to energy costs and water had multiplied.

"There's a limit to how much you can pay," he said.

"We've got to compete on a world market with our sugar, otherwise we are out of business. It is all the things out of our control that are pushing us out of business."