Cane growers look to the sky as price drops

MACKAY cane growers are facing a 'double whammy' as plummeting sugar prices collide with an urgent need for more rain to boost this year's crop.

After an extremely dry March, Canegrowers Mackay chief executive officer Kerry Latter said the region urgently needed "widespread, soaking and steady rain".

April falls so far had been "patchy", Mr Latter said.

Depending on where the "cloud bursts" occurred some places had received a couple of inches while farms only a few kilometres away had just millimetres.

Sugar prices have dropped from 22 US cents a pound to below 12 cents a pound in the past two weeks.

Growers like Farleigh dry farmer Michael Deguara said rainfall in his area was well below average, with most rain coming from storms.

"It would be in the vicinity of 400mm below (average) and it's having a severe impact on our crop," Mr Deguara said.

"We need more substantial falls in the next couple of months.

"This is the driest wet season we've had in 10 years. I can't remember when we had a total failure of the monsoon."

David Stuart

 

Like other farmers, Mr Deguara is hoping some forecasters are correct in their predictions of good rainfall later this month and in May.

"We are also copping some dramatic falls in sugar price," he said.

"It will be a double blow. With a reduced crop and low price it would affect us severely," he said.

"We are lucky the Aussie dollar has eased. This has braced us a little bit."

Canegrowers Mackay chairman Kevin Borg said without good autumn rainfall Mackay and Plane Creek growers would be looking down the barrel of a reduced crop.

However, he said there was still a chance the cane would mature into a reasonable crop.

"Growers are turning their hopes to good autumn falls. This would boost the cane and finish off what good falls in January had started," he said.

"With a low moisture profile on many farms, it will take more than just April showers to maximise our crop potential."



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