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On the Land

21 November, 2021

Mossman Mill wraps up 2021 season

FAR Northern Milling's 150-strong staff breathed a collective sigh recently as the last cane bin of the season was tipped at 12.30am on 3 November.

By Sally Turley

The final sugar cane was made and steam out day got underway in Australia's northern-most cane producing area. 

The first facility to finish the season, Mossman Mill general manager Peter Dibella said the mill crushed a total of just under 640,000 tons of cane since kicking off on 16 June. 

They averaged a weekly throughput of 36,214 tons and a Commercial Cane Sugar (CCS) content of 12.29. 

“Our gross production figure was only a few percent down on our season estimate, but our CCS level was well down on our five-year average which was disappointing,” he said. 

“We can only put the result down to seasonal growing conditions. We had a late wet and a lot of overcast days which weren't ideal.

“We processed around 80,000 tons of raw sugar and 22,000 tons of molasses this year. 

“From here, it is sent to Cairns for domestic and international shipping distribution. We have a good export contract for our molasses with New Zealand, so the bulk of it is going there at the moment.” 

He said with sugar prices currently around the $5.65-$5.70 per ton, it had been a good year for growers and even though there were a few hiccups with boiler tubes blowing during the first four weeks, the factory had performed quite efficiently. 

In July 2019, Mossman Mill, became the first local producer group in Australia to buy back a sugar mill when about 110 growers from Mossman and the Tablelands formed a cooperative and bought the mill back from Mackay Sugar, which acquired the asset in 2012.

Cane for the mill is drawn from a growing area of over 8,500ha, reaching from the Daintree rainforest, into Julatten and down to the rich soils of the Atherton Tablelands. 

About 100,000 tons of sugar from the southern end of the catchment is processed through the Tableland plant under a toll processing agreement each year.

End of season doesn't mean end of work however and the 90 core staff who remained went straight into two weeks of plant wash down, before maintenance commenced on Monday. 

Maintenance work will continue through until 16 December and resume at the end of January in preparation for the 2022 season.

 All the northern sugar mills started crushing in June, but Tableland, Mulgrave, South Johnstone and Tully mills are yet to post an estimated finish date. 

The Herbert Region estimates a 24 November finish date and the Burdekin Region estimates 21 November, while the Proserpine Mill expects to wind up this Friday. 

Sugar is the second largest export crop in Australia after wheat, generating revenue of around $2 billion a year, around 95 per cent of which is grown in Queensland. 

One of 24 sugar mills in Australia, Mossman Mill was built in 1896 and processed its first crush in 1897. 

Mr Dibella said he would like to thank the Mossman community for their patience with all the trucks on the road during the season and said the standard of operation during the season was a credit to their drivers. 

He also wanted to thank the mill’s employees, contractors, farmers, harvesters and all other contributors for their hard work and dedication. 

A lot of big hours were worked and he hoped people could now get back to some regular night’s sleep

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