Cyclone damage dashes hopes of rising Aussie sugar production

19.04.2017

Cyclone damage has dashed hopes for growing Australian sugar production, with fears that flooded cane will rot before it can be harvested.

The US Department of Agriculture's bureau in Canberra forecast sugar production in Australia to fall by 300,000 tonnes year-on-year, to 4.80m tonnes, "due to the recent impact of tropical cyclone Debbie on north Queensland growing areas".

 "Production had been expected to increase, as the area of production for sugar cane is forecast at 410,000 hectares in 2017-18 in response to higher world prices," the bureau said.

With consumption stable, exports are also seen falling by 300,000 tonnes, to 3.70m tonnes.

Bent and broken cane

"The Burdekin, Proserpine and Mackay sugar growing regions in north Queensland were most affected by the tropical cyclone," the bureau said.

"Early indications are that 35% of all sugarcane in the Proserpine region may have been damaged, with 20% damage across the Mackay region."

Some cane in these areas has been physically destroyed, after high wind and water resulted in "bent, uprooted or snapped," the bureau said. This twisted and fallen cane, as well as mud and debris, will slow harvesting.

And in flooded areas, the crop could decay before harvest.

Potentially for crop recovery

But the bureau noted that in areas where the cane was not broken by winds, and were flooding was only short-lived, "a high proportion of the affected crop could be recovered".

And the high soil moisture could actually improves prospects for undamaged cane in the region, come harvest time.

In addition, mills and processing facilities were largely unaffected by the cyclone, which is good news for processing capacity.  

"These varying factors make it difficult to assess the full impact of the cyclone," said the bureau.


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