Small harvest: Chairman of the Richmond River Canegrowers Association Wayne Rodgers says there has been a 50 per cent reduction in planting and extensive damage to fields caused by the wet weather.
Small harvest: Chairman of the Richmond River Canegrowers Association Wayne Rodgers says there has been a 50 per cent reduction in planting and extensive damage to fields caused by the wet weather. Jay Cronan

Rain diminishes cane harvest

LOCAL cane farmers are wishing the rain would go away.

Wet weather has made it difficult for growers to harvest and plant new cane, leading to a reduced 2012 cane harvest and causing the season to be extended by more than a month.

Rick Beattie, manager for agricultural services for the NSW Sugar Milling Co-op, said the mills usually processed cane until November 12, but this year Broadwater and Condong would be going until December 10 and Harwood until December 21.

“Across the co-op we’ll have a 1.7 to 1.8 million tonne crop this year, but we’re hoping to get that back to 2 to 2.5 million tonnes,” he said.

Wayne Rodgers, Pimlico cane grower and chairman of the Richmond River Canegrowers Association, said five generations of his family had worked the land, and this year was the worst in living memory.

“Farmers around here are lucky to have 50 per cent of their planting done. Everyone is late this year,” he said.

“All the primary industries are struggling.”

Mr Rodgers said it wasn’t big rains causing problems, rather the frequency of it.

“It’s that prolonged wet. You get within two days of getting out there and you get another shower,” he said.

“Then you have the higher input costs for weed control, and you have to look after the cane a bit more.”

Due to the two to three-year crop cycles of cane Mr Rodgers said a wet harvest now would also have an impact on the 2012 crop.

“We’re still harvesting but we’re making more of a mess in the field,” he said.

“Because of the wet harvest the crop will grow again, but the ground will be damaged.”

Mr Beattie said farmers being forced to harvest while the ground was damp also contributed to extra costs.

“They have to try and push all that mud back between the rows, and it’s all extra money and extra time in the year when farmers don’t have that time to spend,” he said.

Of some consolation is that all farmers along the east coast are facing the same difficulties.

“The conditions we’re having are the same throughout Queensland up to Cairns,” Mr Beattie said.

“But the prices are good. If we had a crappy crop and a crappy price we’d be in more trouble than we are now.

“It’s not a disaster because, if you have a good year next year, you can claw your way back. We’ll just have to wait and see.”


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