Cane harvest.
Cane harvest.

Bundy crush ends: ‘I haven’t seen the mood this low’

CANE growers and their surrounding communities are facing tough times as the crushing season comes to an early end this week in Bundaberg.

Chairman for Canegrowers Bundaberg Allan Dingle said the drought had caused the season to fall six weeks shorter than average and canegrowers were seeing the effects.

“There’s some issues that are affecting the industry, the drought is the predominant one at his time, then sugar price and then pressures for land use for other uses,” Mr Dingle said.

“Some farmers are irrigating but others rely on dams and other infrastructure so they simply don’t have any water, so they can’t irrigate and their crop will be significantly affected unless we get some significant rainfall.

“We are down about half a million tonnes from what we would have expected to cut, so we will crush probably not quite 1.1 million tonnes for the 2019 season.”

Mr Dingle said the loss of income had already started to have a flow-on effect in communities and other businesses.

“There isn’t as much money in the community to spend and our commodity prices like water and electricity are still up there and that causes a bit of angst as well,” he said.

“I was speaking to some fertilizer people and last year the one group sold 1500 tonnes of fertilizer at this stage of the year and I don’t think they’ve sold 100 tonnes so far this year and that flows onto the general community because they employ people as well.”

Chairman of Canegrowers Isis and third generation cane farmer Mark Mammino said the drought caused a need for more irrigation and affected return crops.

“It’s creating a large demand for irrigation because the ground is so dry, the crops that are harvested are needing some irrigation to allow them to return and come back again,” Mr Mammino.

“The result is most of the return crops are significantly behind what they are in a normal season and we can anticipate that it could lead to a decrease in crops coming forward for the following season, unless there is some decent rainfall.”

Mr Mammino said in his experience the tough season had led to a decline in mental health for growers.

“It’s a combination of everything the sugar price, the weather, the water situation, the Paradise Dam, it is all adding up and it’s probably fair to say that I haven’t seen the mood of growers this low in my time in farming,” he said.

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