Calling for government assistance to help revitalise the Northern NSW sugar industry are (from left) Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association chairman Wayne Rodgers, Lower Richmond River Cane Harvesting Co-op operations manager Ian Gallard and Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association manager Andrew Tickle.
Calling for government assistance to help revitalise the Northern NSW sugar industry are (from left) Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association chairman Wayne Rodgers, Lower Richmond River Cane Harvesting Co-op operations manager Ian Gallard and Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association manager Andrew Tickle. Cathy Adams

Cane industry needs $12m

CANE farmers need millions of dollars, extra workers and more equipment to plant as much sugar cane as possible if the Northern NSW industry is to recover.

Crops in the Broadwater mill area have suffered extensively since 2006 as a result of heavy rain and flooding and the 2012 season is expected to be the worst yet.

Wayne Rodgers, chairman of the Richmond River Cane Growers’ Association, said starting the crop cycle and preparing the land would cost $1800 a hectare.

With more than 6000 hectares in the local area, he said the total amount needed would add up to about $12 million.

“We’ve had a multitude of problems over recent years,” Mr Rodgers said.

“Unfortunately after all the rain only small areas of cane could be put in the ground last year and a lot of that was also wiped out.

“Because we grow over a two-year period, production in the Broadwater mill area will be half of normal production in 2012.

“It will be disastrous.”

In an effort to make the following season better, the association wants to plant as much sugar cane as possible in September, October and November.

But it needs some financial help.

Association manager Andrew Tickle said it had applied for assistance from the State and Federal governments, with the industry to go thirds in the costs.

“In my time there has never been so little planted,” he said.

“But if the industry can get some assistance, growers will regain confidence – they will do everything they can to plant and make the next season a good one, especially because prices are good at the moment.

“But as well as financial help, we are going to need help sourcing quality seed and physically getting the cane in the ground.

“We’re started initial discussions with the Queensland mill areas. They might be able to bring some contractors down to help, as well as some of their equipment.”

Mr Rodgers said there was concern among growers about the state of the region’s sugar cane industry.

He said some had been forced to look for other ways to make ends meet.

“The bad few seasons have had a dramatic effect on the community,” he said. “And with the co-generation plants going into receivership, that shattered farmers as well.

“We spent about $5 million modifying equipment. That was all just a waste of money.

“But there is a lot of confidence the industry can get through it.”



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