Condong sugar cane fields damaged in the wake of storms
Condong sugar cane fields damaged in the wake of storms David Carroll

Growing concern for cane

TWEED cane growers face a lengthy wait before the true cost of the damage done by the wild weather that ripped through the region at the weekend is revealed.

Industry figures have spent this week assessing the damage in the wake of the rain and wild winds with one grower estimating as much as half of all crops in the area had been impacted.

“Maybe 40-50% of the crops in the area have been affected,” he said.

“With the wind and the rain that we have had, the cane is lodged. I don’t think it’s snapped, it’s just gone down.

“It’s a shame really. It was a good crop coming up but with just two weeks to go to harvest, half the crop is upside down.”

Growers had been gearing up to harvest what was forecast to be a bumper crop before the storm delivered more than 300mm of rain to some areas of the Tweed.

The Condong Sugar Mill processed 550,000 tonnes last year and early indications were that would increase to 570,000 tonnes this season.

“It was looking like quite a nice crop, as good as or better than last year,” Condong Sugar Mill operations manager Greg Petersen said.

Mr Petersen said there was some hope that the speed with which the weather system had cleared would limit the crop damage.

“We’re yet to get a handle on what sort of impact it has had,” he said.

“It’ll take a few days to assess. If it’s just tipped, the general consensus is the tonnes will be there, it’ll just be difficult to harvest.”

There is also concern that the storm damage will impact on next year’s crop with some suggesting that the lodged cane will be uprooted during the harvesting process with the stools – critical for regrowth – also removed.

Mr Petersen said despite the damage he expected the harvest would commence later this month as scheduled.

“The crush was due to start June 20 and I think we’ll still get away on the 20th,” he said.

“That gives it a couple of weeks to drain and dry.”

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