Sunday 5th Jul, 2020

Sugar cane harvest cops production hit from drought

Sugar is bouncing back from a long-term price low. Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

The drought in Queensland has impacted the 2019 sugar cane harvest, with a new report finding the state economy will be affected.

Queensland sugar cane farmer advocacy group Canegrowers expects the sugarcane harvest for 2019 to be 29.49 million tonnes, down one million tonnes from 2018 and two million tonnes less than 2017.

Canegrowers CEO, Dan Galligan, said figures for January to September 2019 revealed the southern sugarcane regions have had less than half of their average annual rainfall for the nine-month period on the back of a very dry 2018.

“The regions around Bundaberg, Childers and Maryborough are particularly parched and the harvest is heading towards a very early October finish because of the smaller crop,” he said.

“In the far north, places like Tully and Babinda are around 30 per cent down on average and while the figures in other northern regions look close to average, a lot of their rain fell in the flooding monsoon trough in February and there has been little since.”

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As a result, Galligan said the drop in production will mean that industry growers will earn $36 million less than they did last year.

“That loss of income will be felt by growers and impact right through cane growing communities,” he said.

The organisation commissioned a report to find out just how important the sugar sector is to the Queensland economy.

It finds that the sugar cane industry supports nearly $1.1 billion in economic activity each year and provides more the 9800 direct jobs.

Sugarcane farming was also reported to underpin a value chain worth around $4 billion in economic activity each year, which enables a further 23,650 jobs.

“For the first time this report gives us a clear picture of the scale and extent of the sugarcane industry supply chain and how it really does underpin the well-being of many regions up and down the coast,” Galligan said.

“For every $1.00 of economic activity in sugarcane growing, an additional $6.40 in economic activity is generated elsewhere in the economy.

“In the Ingham and Ayr regions the sugar industry value chain supports nearly one-in-three jobs including employment in sugar mills, transport operators, agricultural contractors, business services and suppliers of fuel, fertiliser, machinery and other products and services.”