Business

Bumper sugar crop predictions giving industry hope

GOOD YEAR: Maryborough Sugar Factory general manager Stewart Norton said this year’s crop was the best since 2006.
GOOD YEAR: Maryborough Sugar Factory general manager Stewart Norton said this year’s crop was the best since 2006. Contributed

ONE of the most powerful economic forces on the Fraser Coast is on the verge of turning in its best performance for almost a decade.

Maryborough's sugar industry has struggled through nine years of flood, disease and drought, pinning its faith on a long-term strategy for sustainability.

Last year, more spirits than cane was crushed, with a scanty 470,000 tonnes put through the mill, but the crop is close to double that this year. In three weeks, harvesters are due to rumble into fields estimated to hold 850,000 tonnes of cane.

Maryborough Sugar Factory general manager Stewart Norton said harvesting was due to start on June 22, depending on the weather.

"It's our best crop since 2006," he said. "Despite the bad years, the company has managed to expand, although we still need a bit more land under cane to be sustainable."

Mr Norton said the region was fortunate that the Thai owners of Maryborough Sugar had taken a long-term view of the industry and had confidence in the future.

"We've had a $15-million investment in large-scale irrigation and a $1.5-million investment in the mill laboratory. I think we can say we are now here to stay."

Forty centre pivot irrigators are being installed to nurse mill cane fields through dry times, although the challenge of sourcing sufficient water creases brows.

Maryborough's sugar industry looked shaky a decade ago. When chief executive Mike Barry was appointed in 2007 the company had capitalisation of $18 million. That has now risen to $500 million with the acquisition of the South Johnstone, Mulgrave and Tablelands mills in North Queensland.

Mr Norton said the more reliable rainfall in the north had given the company more diversity to withstand the variable seasons on the Fraser Coast.

"The previous board recognised the need to expand to become more viable and that made the company more attractive for a takeover bid."

New Thai owners Mitr Phol are widely credited with saving the Maryborough sugar industry, bringing enough depth to withstand the challenging seasons and small crops. The company is Thailand's largest sugar producer, the second largest in China and fourth on the world scale.

Maryborough Sugar now has more than a thousand employees on its books when crushing at its four mills.

More land is needed to expand sugar cane in Maryborough: the million-tonne crop set as a sustainability target decades ago remains elusive. Negotiations to free up State Government land have been protracted and frustrating.

While the weather, lower fuel prices and the lower Australian dollar are hoisting mill and grower revenues this year, the world market price for sugar is stubbornly low.

Mr Norton said the low price was not entirely countered by the positives but overall the Maryborough industry was back in a strong position.

Topics:  farming, fraser coast economy, sugar




Coast Seniors Expo taking the community back to 50s

Beth Power loves dressing up in 1950s attire. So much so she is in the running to become Miss Pinup Australia.

The annual event will return to the Hervey Bay Baptist Church

Commissioner condemns assault of Fraser Island paramedic

A paramedic escorted the woman to a room before she pulled a knife

Funds for job-ready training in Maryborough

There is an emphasis oung people who participate trade certificates

Latest deals and offers

Guy Sebastian a hit at Splendour in the Grass

Guy Sebastian performs at Splendour in the Grass with Paces.

REALITY TV judge a hit with festival crowd.

Superheroes of the big screen enjoy sounds of Splendour

CHRIS Hemsworth and his Avengers mates drop by Byron festival.

Indigenous artist shows tourists secrets of Aboriginal painting

Ever thought "I could do that" about Aboriginal art?

Dynamic pics from Splendour Day 1

The Strokes perform at Splendour in the Grass 2016. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Check out the latest pictures from Splendour in the Grass.

Bindi Irwin: 18 magic photos to mark her 18th birthday

Bindi Irwin with a python.

Photos: Bindi Irwin from babyhood to 18

Aussie director makes his mark on new Roots mini-series

Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte in a scene from the TV series Roots.

BRUCE Beresford behind final episode of remake of iconic series.

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

The climb is slow but property on the way up

Michael Matusik, director of Matusik Property Insights.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin

The improvement would be mild when compared to past cycles