Mackay’s harvest on back of Debbie

Tonnage down at Mackay mills


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The full extent of Cyclone Debbie on the cane industry is being shown.

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TROPICAL Cyclone Debbie smashed the Queensland coast this year, and feeling the brunt of her brute force were cane farmers. 

Canegrowers Mackay Cheif Executive Officer Kerry Latter said the damage was widespread, and varied. 

“Right across the region it depends, but we probably suffered around the 80 per cent-plus damage,” he said.

The 2017 cane harvest has begun in North Queensland, but Mackay Canegrowers CEO Kerry Latter said it's not all smooth sailing.

The 2017 cane harvest has begun in North Queensland, but Mackay Canegrowers CEO Kerry Latter said it's not all smooth sailing.

“We're seeing figures between 15 per cent and 25 per cent of total loss. 

“For instance, Mackay Sugar had a 5.8 million tonne estimate and dropped back to 5.3 (million tonnes), and we're not sure we'll get to that either.” 

Also in Mr Latter’s region is Plane Creek, which was expected to mill 1.4 million tonnes, and is now back to 1.2 million tonnes in the estimate. 

Mr Latter said some varieties fared better than others, with some simply snapping in the gales.

“It was like you picked a height, and put a whipper snipper through the paddock,” he said.

With harvesting underway, new problems have arisen. 

“The problem now is the impact on harvesting,” Mr Latter said. 

“Because (the cane) is laying over, it hasn't fully stood up, you're actually taking everything. 

“You're not being able to top it - so all of the rubbish is going in as well.

“Some cane is being burnt, and we don't get much burnt in Mackay and Plane Creek.”

He said it was now an anxious wait for growers who were hoping to have the entire 2017 crop harvested by the end of the year. 

“We definitely don't want any standover going into next year because we had standover, in excess of 550,000 tonnes last year, and that naturally doesn't perform,” he said. 

While Mackay and Plane Creek felt the impacts of Debbie, Mr Latter said the region still didn’t suffer as bad as their northern neighbours in Proserpine.

Plane Creek growers were faced with an unrelenting cyclone though – due to their geography. 

“Plain Creek growers suffered being on the tail end of the system - there was no eye, it was constant,” Mr Latter said. 

“The biggest problem with the system was it was slow, and it was intense. 

“It shifted tonnes of rubble out of creeks, diverted creeks, and flooded paddocks. 

“Those paddocks will not get re-planted this year or next because they're trying to work on them still. 

“It throws the whole farm out.” 

The story Mackay’s harvest on back of Debbie first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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