Mackay growers dominate Aussie sugarcane production
MACKAY has earned its title as the Sugar City, with a quarter of the nation's sugarcane harvested in this region last season.
An experimental Australian Bureau of Statistics study found Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday was Australia's second largest sugarcane harvest area behind the Townsville region.
The ABS reported 7.7 million tonnes of sugarcane was produced in the greater Mackay region in the 2019-20 financial year.
It was the first time the ABS had created such data to produce an earlier than usual overview of cane yields, Agricultural Statistical Solutions director Rob Walter said.
The data sets were created in collaboration with Queensland and Federal agriculture departments, and industry groups like Sugar Research Australia and the Australian Sugar Milling Council.
Walkerston-Eton growers had a bumper harvest, producing more cane than in the entirety of New South Wales - 2.1 million tonnes, ABS said.
John Deguara was one of many Eton growers who pushed the region to become the nation's fourth largest cane producing area, behind Burdekin, Ingham and Tully.
"The crop is looking very good. And I've got the electricity bills and water bills to prove it," he joked.
Like many growers, Mr Deguara said he was facing high production costs amid low global sugar prices.
But the 61-year-old grower said that did not diminish his optimism for the industry.
"Agriculture is not a year-by-year business, so you don't make business decisions year by year," he said.
"When people say farming is a lifestyle, it's not. It's hard work and hard business.
"If you aren't optimistic about the industry, why stay in it?"
While growers were facing tough conditions, Canegrowers Mackay chairman Kevin Borg said the ABS data under underscored the importance of the sector to the region.
"Sugar has been the backbone of this town," he said
"We've had our ups and downs, but in the end sugar is the one that always brings the economy home."
Greater Whitsunday Alliance chief executive officer Kylie Porter said cane would allow Mackay's economy to blossom.
"This region is a bio-futures hotspot," Ms Porter said.
The industry was exploring how to "value add" to the sugar product, through biofuels and biochemical production.
"It's a really exciting time now for the sugar industry," Ms Porter said.
"We can embrace some concept to produce sugar cane not just to produce sugar."
Top cane producing regions
Provided by the ABS, 'Sugarcane, experimental regional estimates using new data sources and methods, 2019-20'.
Mackay Sugar growers:
Walkerston-Eton: 2.1 million tonnes
Pioneer Valley: 1.4 million tonnes
Seaforth-Calen: 1.2 million tonnes
Mount Pleasant - Glenella: 155,800 tonnes
Ooralea - Bakers Creek: 123,200 tonnes
West Mackay: 4700 tonnes
Wilmar Proserpine Mill growers
Proserpine: 1.3 million tonnes
Airlie-Whitsundays: 26,700 tonnes
Wilmar Plane Creek Mill growers
Sarina: 920,400 tonnes.
Broadsound - Nebo: 371,000 tonnes