THE Australian sugar industry has increased in value by a $100 million in four years, according to peak sugarcane grower group Canegrowers.

The sugarcane harvest is about 80pc complete, and sugarcane hubs from Mossman to Grafton are now on the home straight, vying to bring their crop in before the wet sets in for another year.

The first harvesters to wind down have been in the Mossman and Innisfail areas this week.

One of NSW three mills has also completed processing sugarcane for the year.

According to Canegrowers, this year’s crop will bring in around 30.25 million tonnes, down around a million tonnes from the 31.28 million-tonne start-of-season forecast.

The Burdekin, Ingham and Tully areas are disappointed by crop downgrades in their areas, but the mood is surprisingly chipper around the sugarcane industry.

“Over four short years, the industry has grown by some 20,000 hectares - which in dollar terms is an increase in the value of the Australian industry by about $100 million at a conservative sugar price of $450/tonne,” said Canegrowers chief executive Steve Greenwood.

“We are seeing the much talked about resurgence of the sugarcane industry playing out before our eyes. This might seem at odds to the outsider, who has watched the industry coming out of two of the worst seasons on record; but to the progressive and resilient growers who characterise the sector, they see their industry at a turning point,” Greenwood told media today.

Foreign investment

International investors can't buy into Australian sugar fast enough - foreign ownership of our sugar milling assets has escalated from some 15pc to 75pc in three short years.

“Large international corporations are investing billions, telegraphing the message broadly that there is a real future in our industry. World sugar prices are looking set to remain strong for the coming few years,” Mr Greenwood said.

He cautioned that transparency was needed in the process to achieve the right balance.

Asian century

According to Canegrowers, foreign investment has been enormously positive for the Australian sugar industry, which is currently undergoing an extensive resurgence. Australia is in the enviable position of having a ready and burgeoning Asian market on its doorstep, hungry for Australian sugar. Expansion is a key theme of the industry, with growers planting out additional area to sugarcane up and down the coast.

“The industry is planting with a fervour not seen for many years. While some of the planting is new area - including large tracts from the now defunct management investment schemes, some of the planting includes replacing cyclone, flood and smut damaged ratoons, from the horror climatic patterns of 2010 and the flow-over into 2011,” says Greenwood.

“Flying contrary to two of the worst seasons in living memory, the industry is strengthening and is again coming to the fore as a major economic driver of regional Queensland.”

source: farmonline

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