LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Wilmar is excited by an opportunity to boost throughput at Plane Creek mill.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: Wilmar is excited by an opportunity to boost throughput at Plane Creek mill.

Mega farm to boost Plane Creek Mill

A 2300-hectare cane farm at Clairview, south of Mackay, could help Singapore-based multinational Wilmar deliver on an ambitious plan to increase throughput at Plane Creek Mill by 23 per cent.

The miller wants to increase the volume of cane crushed by the mill from the 1.171million tonnes processed this season to 1.6million tonnes over the next five years.

Part of the reason for a recent decline was a drop in the area under cane.

Farmers moved to other industries, such as cattle, as they became more profitable, Wilmar general manager cane supply and grower relations Paul Giordani said.

However, with extra tonnage from Clairview, improved harvesting efficiencies and an expanded mill mud network to get more fertiliser to cane farmers, the company would be looking to turn things around.

Mill mud is a by-product of the crushing process that is delivered back to farmers to help them enrich fields.

The Clairview venture is expected to deliver an extra 140,000-150,000 tonnes of cane over the next few years.

"We were approached by a new farming enterprise who wanted to look at supplying cane to the mill," Mr Giordani said.

"They are buying properties. Right now they are planting 200ha that will be used for seed cane."

He said the Clairview cane farm would deliver cane to the Southern Cane Railway Extension, which was built in 1994 after Queensland Rail stopped cane transport to the Plane Creek Mill.

"I was working there (Plane Creek) the year that was completed. The extension took the network to Camila and opened up a whole new area for cane.

"This is why I am excited."

The extension will be busy again, with the cane being trucked the 35km from Clairview to the rail network.

There are no plans to extend the network further.

"In the 1960s and 1970s there was cane in Clairview, but all that infrastructure has gone," Mr Giordani said.

The developers of the Clairview enterprise could not be contacted.

However, The Daily Mercury understands that a large area of land at Clairview is being cleared.

This year Plane Creek Mill started on a capital works program to help reach its target, including $1.2million for the manufacture of 175 new cane bins.