Farmers facing frosty problem

By PETER CATON

TWEED canefarmers will be forced to reschedule their harvest operations after severe frosts last week damaged hectares of sugar cane.

The farmers now face a rush to cut frost damaged cane before the sugar content falls and are hoping problems with new machinery in the Condong Mill which plagued the start of the harvest are not repeated.

Tweed Canegrowers Association president Graham Martin said yesterday the new mill machinery finally began working smoothly on Friday night and continued to crush cane through the weekend.

"We had a lot of teething problems," he said.

"Now we have a major problem because the frost has caused a tremendous amount of damage around the valley.It will be a case of changing the cutting programmed to cut the worst affected paddocks first."

Mr Martin said cane fields in Tygalgah and Dulguigan north of Murwillumbah, some near the Murwillumbah airstrip and others at Eviron had taken the brunt of the damage, but he believed rescheduling the harvesting would enable all of it to be cut before sugar content fell drastically.

According to the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative which runs the Condong Mill "a number of teething problems were experienced with new control systems" when the harvest began two weeks ago.

A total of 52 hours of crushing time was lost in the first week alone.

Farmers expect to harvest 600,000 tonnes of cane 80,000 less than last year's near record. Traditional cane fires are continuing for the first few months of this harvest until a new conveyor belt over the Tweed Valley Way near the Condong Mill comes into operation to handle green cane.

More than $12 million has been spent on upgrading equipment at the Condong Mill in addition to the electricity co-generation plant which is due to start producing power for up to 30,000 homes by the end of the year.



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