Growers are all fired-up



TWEED's canegrowers are today hoping for a slightly better than average harvest as they begin "firing up" the first fields to be cut.

Tomorrow the Condong Mill is due to begin crushing the first containerloads of cane for the 2005 harvest.

Farmers are confident those containers will haul more than 600,000 tonnes of burnt and cut cane to the mill by Christmas - slightly up on their forecast two months ago before recent rain.

This year is also set to be the second-last time most canefields are burnt prior to the harvesters moving in.

In 2007 most cane is expected to be harvested green, allowing the trash to be delivered to the mill's planned cogeneration electricity plant which will burn it to create power for the State's electricity grid.

Even then, however, farmers have cautioned large and thicker two-year-old cane will still be burnt in the paddocks - although that will account for just 20 to 25 per cent of the crop.

Yesterday Canegrowers Association Tweed president Graham Martin said late April showers and May rain had improved the chances of a better harvest.

In April farmers had forecast about 583,000 tonnes would be cut but since then rain had meant the crop had continued to grow.

Future harvests, with less "firing" of the fields are being looked forward to by farmers as well as residents who have increasingly complained in recent years about the "black snow" or cane ash which falls in areas such as Murwillumbah.

DON'T miss this Friday's Daily News for a special feature on this year's cane harvest and what is happening in the local Tweed cane industry.



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