Cane crops planted amid mill uncertainty

THE future of the Fraser Coast's cane industry is still uncertain as farmers begin to plant new crops in the coming weeks.

The current cane crop is being harvested, with farmers sticking to business as usual despite the announcement from MSF Sugar that more than 5000 hectares of Maryborough cane land would be sold suggesting it's anything but.

More than 2000 hectares of that land is set to be used to grow macadamia nuts, according to the prospective buyer, Rural Funds Management.

Canegrowers Maryborough chairman Jeff Atkinson said he felt it was just a matter of time until Maryborough Sugar Mill, which was not sold as part of the land purchase, was closed.

It remains in the hands of MSF Sugar.

Mr Atkinson said despite the circumstances, the crush was going pretty well.

"We had a couple of stops for weekends of rain," he said.

The sale of the land in Maryborough was a distraction for farmers, but they were getting on with the job, he said.

An estimated crush of 635,000 tonnes was expected, a similar total to last year.

Mr Atkinson said the total sugar content was higher than average.

He said it was important to know what the future held for growers, especially as some of what was planted this year would still be being harvested in 2024 and 2025.

Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders told ABC Wide Bay the mill was likely to close after this year's crushing season.

He said discussions had started with stakeholders to determine where the cane could be crushed.

"What I believe is happening is that the Maryborough cane for the next two seasons after this season will be crushed in Childers," he said.

"The (Isis Central) mill has approached the Government with a request for some financial help to expand the mill."

MSF Sugar has a cane supply agreement with growers until the end of the 2022 season, meaning they are required, until then, to crush the cane or assist it being crushed elsewhere.

A spokesman from MSF Sugar said there was no update on the future of the mill at this time.

"This season's crush remains the priority," he said.



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