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Sweet spot: Queensland gives the world a little more sugar


Drought in southeast Asia has seen Australia edge ahead of Thailand as the world’s second largest exporter of raw sugar, with the bulk of those overseas-bound volumes coming from Queensland.


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Sugarcane growers are on track to strip 29.5 million tonnes of the crop in June, when sugar mills along the coast process about four million tonnes of raw sugar from the harvested plant.

With 28 million tonnes produced in Queensland and the remainder in northern NSW, only 15 per cent of the raw sugar commodity will be retained for domestic supply, earning an estimated $1.7 billion in export sales, according to Canegrowers.

The grower organisation’s chairman, Paul Schembri, issued a statement promoting the achievement and reminding legislators of the industry’s significance amid ongoing challenges by the conservation lobby to curtail farming activity in areas of close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

“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,” he said.

While patchy rainfall over Queensland during the growing season has dented the forecast harvest slightly, variable weather in Thailand, where growers don’t have widespread access to sophisticated irrigation equipment, will see volumes drop to about 2.6 million tonnes in 2021 – four million tonnes fewer than in 2019.

“We have definitely had our own challenges going into the 2021 season,” 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 per cent of Queensland’s total cane tonnage, have had below average rainfall so far 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 as Brazil exported a huge 27.5 million tonnes of raw sugar last season.


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