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Crushing it: Queensland sugar cane growers celebrate 43-year price high

World sugar prices are at their highest in 43 years, filling Queensland growers with “trepidation and optimism” ahead of harvest next month.

Apr 19, 2023, updated Apr 19, 2023
Sugar cane growers are warming up the harvesters for what could be a bumper year.

Sugar cane growers are warming up the harvesters for what could be a bumper year.

The last time growers saw prices hit $800 a tonne was in 1980, a remarkable rebound from just two years ago when the price languished below $400, barely covering the cost of production.

“It was a pretty grim time,” Canegrowers chairman Owen Menkens said.

Coupled with a drop in fertiliser prices, the recent spike in the world sugar price of $804 a tonne in mid-April has growers bracing for a bumper year when the 2023 sugarcane crush starts in a matter of weeks.

“Growers are understandably excited,” Menkens said.

Due to the fact Queensland’s cane growers forward price on their milling contracts at least 12 months in advance, most growers won’t be able to take advantage of the latest high until next year.

Menkens said that as of mid-April, growers could forward price their 2023 sugar at $756 a tonne and their 2024 sugar at $651 a tonne.

The price rise comes on the back of falls in fertiliser prices, which had skyrocketed 12 months ago due to the war in Ukraine, but have now fallen from declines in demand and a drop in natural gas prices.

“These falls haven’t filtered through to the local market yet, as resellers offtake old, highly priced stocks,” Menkens said.

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“But if fertiliser prices continue to drop, sugarcane growers should find their input costs significantly reduced when it comes time to fertilise around August and September.”

Now all growers need is good weather and better mill performance from what was delivered last year, when a combination of wet weather and poor mill performance saw the crushing season blow out by four to six weeks in some districts.

“It is in everybody’s interest to pull together and work towards getting this next crop off in a timely and efficient manner,” Menkens said.

“The success of the coming season hinges on the efforts we put in now. If we can all rise to meet this challenge, and Mother Nature is kind, 2023 can be a fantastic year for Queensland’s sugarcane industry.”

 

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