Cane growers are lining up for a 29.5 million tonne harvest

Queensland’s sugarcane growers are counting down to the start of 2021 harvest, buoyed by the news that Australia has jumped to second place in the list of raw sugar exporting nations, even with weather reducing the expected crop.

“Recently, Australia has overtaken Thailand as the world’s second largest exporter of raw sugar,” Canegrowers Chairman Paul Schembri said.

“I think many people in our communities and government, and even cane growers, would be surprised to know we are such an important player in this market, sitting second only to Brazil.”

When the sugar mills fire up in June, it is anticipating growers will deliver around 29.5 million tonnes of sugarcane, 28 million tonnes of that (95%) will come from Queensland growers.

The balance of the anticipated harvest, and about 5% will come from northern New South Wales.

The growing region stretches along 2,100km of coastline between Mossman in far north Queensland and Grafton in northern New South Wales.

A crop of this volume will make around 4 million tonnes of raw sugar of which 85% will be exported, earning $1.7 billion.

Experiencing drought in some key growing regions, Thai sugar exports are expected to only be around 2.6 million tonnes in 2021 – four million tonnes less than 2019.

“We have definitely had our own challenges going into the 2021 season,” Mr Schembri said.

“While there has been periodic heavy rain, La Nina didn’t deliver the soaking wet season across the regions that we were looking for and the cane crop for 2021 is around 1.5 million tonnes less than the 2020 season.

“Rain gauges tell us that the Burdekin, central, and southern regions, which normally contribute around 60% of Queensland’s total cane tonnage, have had below average rainfall this year.

“Bundaberg, Childers and Maryborough remain effectively in drought with irrigation water storages now critically low.”

While Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of raw sugar, it is not in the running for the top spot just yet as Brazil exported a huge 27.5 million tonnes of raw sugar in the 2020 season.

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