TWEED Canegrowers chairman Robert Quirk is looking forward to a sweet year in 2010.
TWEED Canegrowers chairman Robert Quirk is looking forward to a sweet year in 2010.

Sweet times for sugar

TWEED canegrowers are looking forward to potentially their best year in three decades as world sugar prices climb to almost unprecedented levels.

“If ever there was a time to be a cane grower it’s this year,” said chairman of the Tweed Canegrowers’ Association Robert Quirk yesterday.

“2010 will probably be the best year we’ve had for a long time, all things being equal.

“At the moment there is very little sugar being produced.

“Brazil won’t start crushing until April and there is no sugar on the international market at the moment.

“It’s not unprecedented, but the last time it happened was 30 years ago.”

“India, which was a big producer, at the moment is importing sugar.”

Mr Quirk said the turn-around in India’s status from exporter to importer had thrown the international market out of balance and the shortage of sugar was pushing up prices.

Combined with that, trade officials say demand for sugar has increased due to its use in renewable energy products such as ethanol.

“This year will have the best prices we have seen for some time,” said Mr Quirk.

“The crop looks as good as we’ve seen it and weather permitting we will have a very good crop.”

Mr Quirk said cash from last year’s harvest had been flowing into farmers’ pockets as they received payment from the NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative, and with the positive outlook for the year ahead many had reason to smile after several tough years.

“We need it,” he added.

Last year was a horror one for cane growers.

They had one of their shortest ever annual harvests, then were warned to be on the lookout for a damaging fungal disease after a case of the smut fungus was found just outside Murwillumbah before Christmas.

In the past two years canefarmers have struggled through frosts and floods, as well as the ongoing problems associated with controversial co-generation electricity plants at the Condong and Broadwater sugar mills.

This year sugar shortages have already created political tensions in India where the government is under increasing pressure to import white, ready-to-eat sugar for the next three years in a bid to control domestic prices.

International sugar market prices shot up in the last week of December, with London Daily Price closing at a high US $694 per tonne, up sharply by almost $16 from the previous week.

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