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The Clarence Valley’s cane harvest starts next Monday June 17. The state-of-the-art $8m warehouse (at right) at the Harwood Mill and Refinery is at completion phase and will be fully operational by the end of June. A $4million Australian Government grant co-funded the project. “There are four to 5,000 tonnes of storage available, which is important for our new products, including our low GI sugar,” Sunshine Sugar CEO Chris Connors said. Image: Contributed

Cane harvest starts next week

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley’s canegrowers begin harvesting on Monday June 17.

This year’s crop, however, has been affected by two successive dry summers.

“The 2018/19 year is one of the driest on record on the Clarence,” Clarence Canegrowers president Ross Farlow said.

“The figures for January were about 1.8mm at the Harwood Mill.”

Mr Farlow said that when the “crops suffer from the summer heat and lack of rainfall, they go dormant, into protection mode and don’t grow as much”.

Looking towards the coming winter months, Mr Farlow said there is “concern as an industry” that there may be a dry and frosty winter ahead.

He said the upriver areas at Lawrence, Ulmarra and Roberts Creek are usually the most affected by frosts.

“This season’s harvest estimate is around 560,000 tonnes,” Mr Farlow said.

“Last year’s was 710,000 tonnes … we’d like to be at 750,000 tonnes.”

Meanwhile, the industry has taken advantage of the dry conditions, which a Sunshine Sugar media release states “has not hindered growth plans for the [Northern Rivers] industry, with a host of business improvement initiatives in progress”.

“The drier conditions have allowed a significant program of off-season maintenance work across the three sugar mills [Broadwater, Harwood and Condong] to be undertaken,” the release states.

“In addition, the food grade facility at Condong has successfully implemented a new bagging plant for the ongoing supply of brown and icing sugar to Woolworths under the Essentials brand.

“A fleet of new Mercedes prime movers have been commissioned at Broadwater.

“Replacement of aging vehicles will deliver benefits to transport costs through reduced down time and lower operating costs in an agricultural area with a number of long haul routes.”

Sunshine Sugar said sales of its low GI sugar are continuing to grow domestically and internationally.

“As a business we continue to explore ways in which we can do more with the assets we have and utilise as much of the cane plant to decrease waste and increase profitability,” CEO of Sunshine Sugar, Chris Connors, said.

“Our low GI sugar has been a great success and we are now seeing returns for this premium product flowing back into the business.

“Continued increased revenue from the sale of this premium sugar will provide the necessary access to funding for Sunshine Sugar to implement diversification projects that realise the potential use of the whole sugarcane crop.”

Condong Mill starts crushing on June 24 and the Broadwater Mill begins on July 8.

Note: According to Diabetes Australia, the glycemic index or GI ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. The lower the GI, the slower the rise in blood glucose levels will be when the food is consumed. The effect may differ from person to person. Low GI foods are foods with a GI less than 55.