Third generation cane grower Wayne Simpson.
Third generation cane grower Wayne Simpson.

CEO moves to allay fears of lower-than-expected crop

IN A week punctuated by talks around the sale of Mossman Mill and forecasts of a lower-than-expected crop, Mackay Sugar's millers and growers have remained upbeat.

Executive director and CEO Mark Day allayed fears of a crop of only 4.5million tonnes reported earlier this week, stating forecasts were still projecting to levels much higher than that.

Wayne Simpson, a third-generation grower on the Walkerston-Homebush Road, said cutting standover cane early in the season had set them back a bit but they expected to recoup yield and PRS when their 40 hectares of plant cane was harvested in the next cutting round or two.

Mr Simpson said while it would likely hold up the crush, a good couple of inches of rain wouldn't go astray and it would help bolster confidence and positivity through to the end of the season.

"The crop is pretty average this year and it is starting to drop off now, because it's so dry," Mr Simpson said.

"We are starting to irrigate, and even though you only get out of it what you put in, there is a line we don't want to cross so that our inputs are greater than what we are getting out of it."

Mr Simpson said the announcement by Mackay Sugar that an agreement to sell Mossman Mill had been entered into was welcome news.

"Selling that is the best thing going," he said.

"I think it is a bit of a case of better late than never; and I don't know that we would ever recoup what we put into it. But now it looks like there are some positive things happening and I think we have the right man for the job."

Mr Simpson said while there was always going to be negativity around, and everyone was entitled to their opinion, it was important now to just get on with the job.

"It's hard to take, of course. But we are in this mess now and we need to get up and do something about it.

"We need to get back to basics."

A Mackay Sugar spokesperson said from a milling perspective, this past week was defined by continuous improvements in milling performance, with season-to-date plant availability and crushing just above budget.

PRS levels were up almost half a unit this week, taking the increase to 1.13 units over the past two weeks.

"This is putting pressure on the processing end of the factory (pan, evaporator and fugal stations) and this is the focus at all Mackay factories," the spokesperson said.

"Farleigh mill conducted a major planned "steam off" (full shutdown) stoppage to undertake an evaporator clean and address pan stage and boiler issues."

The spokesperson said Marian mill had a good week, with above 95 per cent plant availability.

The mill exceeded more than 16,000 tonnes of cane crushed for a 24-hour period, which is the highest season-to-date daily tonnage, the spokesperson said.

"Maintenance on the A-train shredder, as well as an evaporator clean, was undertaken during the week.

The spokesperson said Racecourse Mill had an extended planned maintenance stop during the week to chemical clean evaporators, undertake minor steam main repairs, replace aged cabling and failed contactors on No 1 bagasse bin reclaimer.

They said repairs were also completed on No.7 cooling tower fan, which would help increase throughput in the processing areas in the coming weeks.

Weekly Statistics Update

Farleigh 55,057

Marian 102,240

Racecourse 55,021

Total tonnes 212,318

Total to date 1,480,233

PRS week 13.70

PRS year to date 12.20