Sugar: Dry cuts short cane crushing season

Cane Crush: Ongoing dry weather has resulted in an early end to the sugar crushing season.

With more than 76 per cent of the cane crop already processed into raw sugar, Australia’s sugar industry looks set for its earliest season finish for some years.

Australian Sugar Milling Council chief executive officer David Pietsch said the cane crop had been drying out quickly, with the bulk of the crop harvested well before the end of November.

“The season started back in late May when the first mill started to crush,” Mr Pietsch said.

“As soon as all 24 Australian mills were up and running in late June, total sugarcane throughput stayed on or around 1.5 million tonnes of cane crushed each week.

“Throughput will tail off as mills in different regions complete their crush.”

Mr Pietsch said because of the dry conditions, current production forecasts for 2018 were 33mt, more than 1mt down from the initial starting estimate of 34.3mt for total cane to be harvested.

“However, sugar content in the cane (commercial cane sugar or CCS) has been high and the raw sugar produced is likely to range between 4.2mt to 4.6mt,” Mr Pietsch said.

Mr Pietsch said the crushing season had gone well amid growing concerns over the depressed outlook for world sugar prices.

“High global inventory stocks coupled with a huge volumes of subsidised sugar, mainly originating from India and Pakistan, are dragging export prices for raw sugar down to levels not seen in over a decade,” Mr Pietsch said.

“Prices have rallied over recent days and long-term global demand for raw sugar continues to be strong, but the low prices are below the cost of production for the Australian industry.

“Most industry analysts suggest a sustained price recovery is unlikely in the short term.”

In 2017 33.3mt of cane was crushed with 4.48mt of raw sugar produced, with 3.7mt exported.