Queensland sugarcane farmers face an uncertain festive season as incessant mill breakdowns threaten their livelihoods.
In what can only be described as “gross incompetence”, ongoing mechanical problems at the Inkerman Mill have slowed this year’s harvest – increasing the season length, resulting in a loss of profits for farmers, and stripping the Burdekin community of crucial cash flow.
In the latest incident on Friday, the mill’s superheater broke down, resulting in a stop to harvesting until Tuesday.
With 94,000 tonnes of cane still to be processed by the end of the season, farmers have lost all confidence in the mill’s capabilities.
Now AgForce is calling for mill owner Wilmar Sugar to collaborate with farmers and put a stop to the intransigence ingrained throughout its Australian contingent once and for all.
AgForce Cane Board President and sugarcane farmer Ricky Mio said the mill’s slow crushing rate was a long running issue that should have been fixed by now.
“The bottom line is our farmers make their money at the end of the season, once fixed costs of the harvest are covered,” he said.
“Due to somebody else’s gross incompetence we run the risk of being out of pocket, and at the worst possible time of year.
“I understand that Wilmar is doing its best to get on top of these mechanical issues, but the fact that farmers have to bear the brunt of it is nothing short of disgraceful.
“If a white-collar worker spent his whole year working hard for a company, and then through no fault of his own, had his salary taken away just before Christmas, people would be up in arms.
“Why should it be any different for farmers?
“I am concerned for the financial implications of our members, other producers, and contracting crews, but also the toll something like this may take on a person’s mental health.
“Christmas is traditionally a joyous time of year, but also one that puts pressure on the pocket, and this shambles is just another blow for sugarcane farmers at the end of a hard year.”
In recent years, Inkerman Mill has struggled to achieve crushing rates of more than 90 per cent of capacity.
Mr Mio said it was high time mill bosses engaged with producers and worked with them to prevent delays like this happening again.
“We feel there are issues with this mill that need to be resolved sooner rather than later,” he added.
“It’s important to maintain a clear and open dialogue so we can find a solution to this totally avoidable, abysmal situation.”