The 2022 crushing season is now underway after Victoria Mill in the Herbert region tipped the first bin of cane early last week.
It was the first of eight Queensland sugar mills to start the season, followed closely by Inkerman and Invicta mills in the Burdekin and Macknade Mill in the Herbert and Plane Creek Mill in Sarina.
Wilmar’s other Burdekin mills – Kalamia and Pioneer – started up today, with the final Proserpine Mill scheduled to start next Tuesday.
General Manager Operations, Mike McLeod, says the 2022 season is looking positive, with a good-sized sugarcane crop and strong global sugar prices.
“We’re looking at a total crop estimate of 15.28 million tonnes for the Wilmar group, which is about 680,000 tonnes up on last year, and we expect to see some upside in the crop due to the good growing conditions,” says Mike.
“We’re also seeing sugar prices of around $600 a tonne over recent months, which is real cause for optimism.”
A report commissioned by The Australia Sugar Milling Council, released in March this year, shows the Queensland sugar manufacturing industry contributed $3.8 billion into the Queensland economy and supported almost 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2020-21.
The economic contribution included $1 billion in the Northern region, encompassing the Hinchinbrook, Townsville, Charters Towers and Burdekin. In light of this, Mike says Wilmar has spent $200 million in capital and maintenance in its sugar milling assets this year.
Key capital replacement projects completed ahead of the 2022 crush included a new pan for Macknade Mill, new evaporator for Kalamia Mill, new cane carriers at Victoria and Inkerman mills and three newly rebuilt locos for Proserpine and Plane Creek mills.
“The start of the crushing season is a welcome annual milestone as this is when all of the hard work pays off for the growing and milling sectors,” says Mike.
“It’s also when money flows through those local communities, so it really gives the sugar towns a massive economic shot in the arm.”