Cane fire near Condong with Richard Anderson. Photo: John Gass / Daily News
Cane fire near Condong with Richard Anderson. Photo: John Gass / Daily News John Gass

Tweed's sugar yield smashed after January floods

JANUARY'S big wet slashed the sugar cane yield on the Tweed from a predicted half-a-million tonnes to 340,000 says grower and president of the Tweed Cane Growers Association Robert Quirk.

The flooding "turned a good season into a miserable one in a couple of days," Mr Quirk said.

"There was over two metres of water on a lot of this country," he said, gazing out at his 106ha property. "Sugar cane can stand water for about three days; after that it starts to die. You can see as you go down the fields where the water was on every consecutive day."

But on the upside in a depressed world sugar market, NSW Sugar Mill Co-op had secured an "excellent" forward price, significantly more than that to be paid to other Australian growers.

"It's one of the best prices we've seen in many years," Mr Quirk said.

The flooding had also revealed the strengths of a new variety of sugar cane - Q208 - that proved less susceptible to water and as a result was likely to become a standard variety on the Tweed.

"We didn't know it was so tolerant to flooding until we had the floods," Mr Quirk said.

The crop yield this year will be nearly half the 600,000 tonnes that would be processed in a normal season, a spokesman for the Condong Sugar Mill said.

Crushing started in June and is due to be completed in November. The 125-year tradition of burning before harvest is set to continue among most of the 120 local cane growers.

That is despite hopes the Condong Sugar Mill's cogeneration plant would put a stop to the annual bushfires, but the world-first project had not proven successful.

In cogeneration, instead of being burnt in the paddock, the trash would be harvested along with the cane, and burnt at the mill with the trash, the fibre left after crushing.

FAST FACTS

  • The sugar cane yield on the Tweed will be 340,000 tonnes, down from the half-a- million tonnes predicted before the flooding in January.
  • This is less than half the 600,000 tonnes processed by Condong Sugar Mill in a normal season.

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