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$30m irrigation injection for cane

FLOW-ON EFFECTS: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh and Maryborough Sugar Factory CEO Mike Barry check out the crop at the Marriott Farm as part of the Project Akuna launch.
FLOW-ON EFFECTS: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh and Maryborough Sugar Factory CEO Mike Barry check out the crop at the Marriott Farm as part of the Project Akuna launch. Robyne Cuerel

RENEWED confidence in the Maryborough region's sugar industry has come in the form of a $30 million investment from the third-largest sugar producer in Queensland - the Maryborough Sugar Factory.

MSF chief executive Mike Barry met recently with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh, along with members of the canegrowing community to announce a $15.46 million investment over five years, which will see up to 17 farms fitted with 40 low-pressure centre pivot irrigation systems.

As part of Project Akuna (the Aboriginal word for flowing water), a further $15 million will become available as a low-interest loan scheme for cane farmers to invest in more efficient irrigation.

Mr Barry said the investment was most likely the largest ever made in the sugar industry in Australia.

"It hasn't been in a sustainable position so this investment is really about the first steps to make this sustainable," Mr Barry said.

"In terms of this region, it is a good canegrowing region, however the last good crop that we had here was back in 2006.

"We've got a mill here that can crush one million tons and over the last half a dozen years we haven't come close to that.

"This investment will make this region world class in terms of irrigation and farming practices."

Mr McVeigh said the investment would come as a relief to canegrowers who had just experienced one of the lowest crushes in decades.

"It gives the rest of the community confidence to move forward," he said.

"The fact that an organisation like this is prepared to make a commitment to the community means that everybody else can as well.

"Ultimately it's about jobs for Maryborough and that's so important right throughout the agricultural supply chain."

The investment has been welcomed by canegrowers like Roger Bambling, who has been using centre pivot irrigation on part of his farm for the past 12 months.

"Because we've had such a dry year, basically we wouldn't have any cane on the ground if it wasn't for the pivot," he said.

He said using centre pivot irrigation had proved time efficient in terms of both labour costs and farm management.

For Mr Bambling the decision by MSF to invest was a positive sign for the future of the industry in the Maryborough region.

"The way they are going to put in new systems and offering more incentives for the growers, I think it gives you a lot of confidence that they're in for the long haul."

KEY FACTS

  • 17 farm projects with 40 centre pivots
  • 1619 ha upgrade to low-pressure irrigation
  • 441ha upgrade from dryland to irrigated
  • 59ha new cane ground
  • 60,315 tonnes additional cane
  • Capital expenditure of about $15.46 million
  • Five-year project
  • MSF has approximately 4581ha of farmland in the Maryborough area. This project will cover 54% of this area.