11 June, 2024

Plan to truck cane south

PLANS are underway to truck this year’s Mossman cane over to the Mulgrave mill at Gordonvale.

By Nick Dalton

Plan to truck cane south - feature photo

But the sticking point is who will bear the cost of transportation.

The mill has gone into liquidation after growers had invested $15 million in this year’s crop.

Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan said MSF Sugar at Gordonvale had drafted a cane supply agreement which enabled Mossman growers to have their cane crushed at the Mulgrave mill.

However, he said, there was no agreement yet on transport costs, which if they fell entirely on growers would make crushing Mossman cane in Gordonvale prohibitively expensive.

Mr Galligan said it would cost millions of dollars to transport the cane from Mossman to Gordonvale and the growers could not afford it.

He said negotiations were continuing with all parties to reach an agreement on transport costs.

Mr Galligan said there was “a gap” between what the mill and growers could afford and it was hoped the State Government’s $12.1 million transition package could assist.

He said planning was underway to recruit drivers.

It is believed 40 drivers will be needed by harvesting and transport company The Bray Group, which has started advertising on social media for staff for a mid-June start.

Mr Galligan said it was expected that the crush would begin mid-July and the mill had started building facilities to handle the truck movements.

He said there should be no issue with extra trucks on the highway even though sections of the road were under repair and there were nightly closures in place.

“This is more than a theoretical thing … it’s a real option,” Mr Galligan said.

He said the Arriga mill on the Tablelands was not an option. He said it was at capacity taking cane from the Julatten area as well as on the Tablelands.

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said she had been advocating strongly to ministerial colleagues, Premier Steven Miles and Department of Agriculture representatives for greater support to manage the 2024 crop and to mitigate losses in the wake of the mill wind up.

“I am acutely aware of what the Mossman mill has meant for the town and the role it has played in Mossman’s economy for past 130 years,” she said.

“Looking to the immediate future for growers, the priority for a successful transition is the cane in the paddock right now.

 “Farmers have invested time, money, and care into the current crop and, with no working mill in Mossman to process this crop, the key to transition is to minimise their losses. Growers are asking for financial support to transport the cane, or to harvest the cane on ground.”

A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesman said it was understood 19m-long semi-trailers would be used and which were permitted to travel on the Captain Cook Highway and through to Gordonvale.

“Safety of road users is our first priority, and we will work with industry to manage the additional truck movements on Captain Cook Highway, Cairns Western Arterial Road and the Bruce Highway,” he said.


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