PLANE Creek mill area cane growers have a lot be confident about when considering the future of sugar, local mill performance, the world sugar price and next year's crop.
This week Plane Creek Productivity Services Limited chairman and Canegrowers Mackay deputy chairman Kevin Borg spoke about how the cane growing region south of Mackay is faring.
The Ilbilbie grower Mr Borg said most growers were feeling generally confident about the future.
"There is an air of renewed vigour in activities, in conversation, and it's a very good thing to be seeing and feeling following the last few years' disappointments," Mr Borg said.
It is confidence inspiring to know that mill management is making it quite clear to us (growers) that they will improve mill performance side-by-side with productivity going forward.
"The confidence and renewed interest in moving forward pro-actively comes from a number of factors, and one of those is definitely improved mill performance.
Mr Borg said significant capital investment into repairing, upgrading and maintaining Sucrogen's Plane Creek operations and new systems implemented after the purchase, had achieved availability percentages not seen in the region for many years.
"Basically Sucrogen recognises how absolutely critical reliability and sustainability are, and they've specifically targeted their maintenance schedule to build mill performance - and it's working," he said.
"The mill is performing well to date achieving 94% availability - in the years leading up to this mill availability has been coming in around the mid-80%.
"It is confidence inspiring to know that mill management is making it quite clear to us (growers) that they will improve mill performance side-by-side with productivity going forward."
This year's Plane Creek mill area estimate is currently at 1.28 million tonnes and looks like holding.
"We have in the last couple of weeks passed the 50% mark of the crushing season - we're cutting a mill area average of about 75-76 tonnes per hectare and that's probably a little bit down on our expectations considering the excellent growing conditions we had from November to April," Mr Borg said.
"Our season to date ccs average is 14.21 with a weekly average that is in 15s, and that is something everyone is quite happy with.
Mr Borg said if the season continued in a positive vain with good weather and mill performance a finish to the Plane Creek Mill area crushing could be expected in late November or the first week in December.
"Back in July we had about 160mm of rain on this farm and similar amounts throughout the region, and of course that impacted on planting and crushing."
He said most early planting (pre-rain) was coming along reasonably well despite some losses as a result of heavy and continuous falls.
"The weather we've had recently however, has been ideal and everyone is taking advantage of the dry spell and getting their planting done and replacing old ratoons. This should all be completed in the next few weeks, all going well," he said.
"It is now at planting time that you really pick up on the general mood of growers - they are just really getting in to it.
Mr Borg said this year there had been some repercussions from harvester sector rationalisation in the past 8-10 years.
"In order to remain viable the sector had to drop from around 70 odd harvesters in the region to around 30 odd now. That really wasn't too much of a problem with a mill running at around mid-80% of availability, but obviously this has implications now.
"With a mill that keeps crushing the harvesting sector has in previous weeks struggled to keep up supply. I guess that puts us back into a transitionary stage and we imagine that the sector, as it has before, will flex and adapt over the coming seasons," he said.
"Our main concern at the moment is ever-increasing input costs - fertiliser, electricity, herbicides and the recent announcement of a reduced rate of the herbicide diuron that will virtually render it useless as a weed control tool. "As well, we are paid for our sugar on the world market so we have to remain internationally competitive - the higher our Aussie dollar goes the more negative is the impact on available prices."
He said world sugar prices were favourable and growers would not like to see it move closer (lower) to cost of production.
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