CRUSH: Proserpine mill team with the Number 2 pan which has received a $1.4 million upgrade ahead of the 2019 crush season.
CRUSH: Proserpine mill team with the Number 2 pan which has received a $1.4 million upgrade ahead of the 2019 crush season. Contributed

The sweet season

The Proserpine crush season is set to start a week later than initially planned with crop estimates for 2019 up slightly from last year.

Canegrowers Proserpine manager Michael Porter said the region came to an agreed date of June 25 after considering the availability of the Proserpine mill and the conditions of the crop.

He said due to recent rain in early May, it was decided an extra week before crushing would be beneficial for the crop and still allow ample time for the crush to be finished by the first week of November.

"Very slow to get out of the ground due to draught conditions the crop has responded well to the recent wet conditions," he said.

"The crop is flowering now -so giving the crop another week to mature will help build a little more sugar content," he said.

"The crushing is still set to finish in early November, giving us plenty of time to work on our next crop."

Across North Queensland Proserpine will be the last mill to start crushing this season with the Burdekin's Kalamia and Inkerman mills due to begin on June 4 and Invicta and Pioneer on June 11 and Herbert and Plane Creek to commence on June 18.

Proserpine Mill is expected to see 1.61 million tonnes crushed in 2019, up from last year's total of 1.56m tonnes.

The Herbert region is expected to crush 4.26m tonnes, the Burdekin region 8.24m tonnes and Plane Creek 1.3m tonnes.

Mr Porter said although the tonnage of crop is expected to be higher this year, the region would have to wait and see if the sugar content was as impressive as last years.

"We're expected to be up 50 to 60 tonnes from last year but that isn't necessarily going to make a big difference because it can really depend on the sugar content of the crop which on average could turn out lower than last year," he said.

"The benefit of last year, which was a much smaller crop was the that the sugar CCS at 14.95 was high so what we lost in actual tonnage we were able to gain in the sweetness of the crop, so we could extract more sugar.

"We could end up with more tonnage this year, but it will depend on the sugar content as to how much we benefit from this year's crop."

Proserpine Mill finished the 2018 crush on October 21 and has since seen several upgrades put in place for this year's crush, including a $1.4 million revamp to the Number 2 pan.

Mackay regional operations manager Craig Muddle said the renewed pan was a part of the mills focus to make upgrades associated with improved factory reliability and processing rate.

"The pan is a major upgrade that will shore up reliability of the pan stage, which is the area of the factory that grows the sugar crystals," Mr muddle said.

"Good pan performance is critical to factory rate and sugar quality.

"Other major upgrades at the Proserpine Mill ahead of the 2019 crush included a new switch room for the site's injection water control system, overhauls of mill turbines, new induced draught fan impellors and a new sprinkler system for the bagasse bin."

Proserpine cane supply manager Tony Marino said several upgrades had also been made to the mill's cane railway network and to one of the seven locos' to be used in transporting the estimated 1.61 million tonnes of harvested sugarcane to Proserpine Mill this season.

"Upgrades this year include new flashing light systems at Myrtle Creek and Hamilton Plains along Shute Harbour Road and an upgraded rail crossing on Spruce Road," Mr Marino said.

"Proserpine's No. 10 Loco has also had a major overhaul this year and is now sporting a new Mercedes Benz engine, new drive train and remote shunting unit."