Mills blow yearly shutdown budget in less than a month

THE start to this years sugar season could be the slowest on record.

Barely a month into the crush, Marian, Farleigh and Racecourse mills have spent more time stopped than they had budgeted for through the entire year ahead.

Mackay Sugar general manager of milling operations Jason Lowry said they had budgeted 220 stoppage hours per mill for the year.

"So far Farleigh has been stopped 280 hours and Marian and Racecourse have stopped about 230 hours each," Mr Lowry said.

"This has already pushed back the finish date."

He said at this stage, the finish date had been set back from November 5 to November 15, but it was "definitely possible" that it could be postponed even further.

Rainy weather was the primary reason behind the hold-ups, although last Monday at Marian a tube leak inside the evaporators stopped operations for another day.

"It was an equipment issue coupled with sugar in the boiler feed," Mr Lowry said. "It happened not an hour into milling again after being shut down due to wet weather." He said rain-muddied cane had also held up the process.

"The level of mud coming in with the cane clogs up filtration," he said.

"The mud doesn't go through the rotary vacuum filter and has to be shut down anywhere between 30-90 minutes."

He said this had predominately been a problem at Farleigh mill, where growers had received up to 120mm of rain this season.

Canegrower Noel Durnsford said the extended crush was concerning as it could hinder next year's crop.

"The ratooning crop won't be as good as it could have been if it is harvested later," he said.

"It can't get up and get going as well if it is cut later.

"Timeframes are critical."

Wilmar's Plane Creek and Proserpine mills only started crushing on June 23, and had barely been interrupted.


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