Harvest of sugar crop may drop 12% in Mackay

STRAINS on Mackay's sugar industry continue as farmers prepare to harvest a cane crop that could be down 12% from last year.

Mackay Area Productivity Services chief executive office John Agnew said yellow canopy syndrome and the dry season dealt the industry serious setbacks.

"Last year we cut about 5.4 million tons, this year we will be lucky to cut 5 million," Mr Agnew said.

"Some are saying it could be down as far as 4.8 million.

"It's a combination of yellow canopy syndrome and it's been really dry.

"It's disappointing the (world) sugar price has taken a dive at the moment too."

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A year ago the world sugar price hovered around 17US cents a pound, and Mackay's crop yield was about $300 million in value.

Along with the reduced harvest size, the price was now 12.33US cents a pound, or $A347.68 a ton.

Sugar Research Australia has so far invested $4 million over three years towards fighting yellow canopy syndrome.

But chief executive officer Neil Fisher said there were no silver bullet answers.

"(The) research program (is) across a range of areas that look at identifying YCS and its causes and how it could be dealt with in the paddock," Mr Fisher said.

"Projects are looking at the full range of factors to identify what YCS is - and what it is not.

"This includes looking at diseases or pests or non-living factors such as high temperatures or drought."

The Mackay region is among the worst impacted regions from yellow canopy syndrome (YCS), along with Mulgrave, Herbert, and the Burdekin.

The syndrome first appeared south of Cairns in 2012.

It stunts sugar cane growth, with some crops yields dropping 30-40%.

One of the main problems with identifying a cause or a solution was because it appeared to have no pattern.


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