CHAIRMAN'S REPORT 2022/23
This report covers the financial year from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023 including the 2022 sugar cane season. The start of the season was a stop-start affair with significant wet weather being less than favourable for harvesting and resulting in one of the latest season finishes in memory, finishing on 30 December 2022.
The downside of the weather was that we left approximately 71,000 tonnes, of which 33,000 tonnes was grower cane, as standover. The relative CCS for the year was 13.22 which was disappointing although understandable considering the continued wet throughout the season. The season ended on 30 December with an average CCS of 13.16.
Bundaberg Sugar was able to achieve a very credible performance by Millaquin Mill and our assessment was that mill availability was around ninety-five percent (95%). This put Millaquin Mill near or on top of the performance of all Queensland mills. A total of 28.5 days was lost due to wet weather.
On a brighter note, water allocations for Medium Priority scheme water started at 100% with many of the Groundwater allocations also close to 100%.
We work closely with Bundaberg Sugar management in representing growers needs and I would particularly like to acknowledge Guy Basile, Matt Curtis and Rob Zahn for their efforts during the 2022/23 financial year.
2022/23 saw some great achievements gained for the Bundaberg sugar industry and we resourced a number of strong advocacy campaigns targeting electricity pricing, reef regulations, sugar marketing, input costs and irrigation water issues.
The inclusion of our region into the reef regulation requirements in late 2019 has resulted in a lot of effort by Bundaberg CANEGROWERS aimed at having this region returned to its previous status. It is unjustifiable to include an area that is outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park that can have no impact on it and we continued this campaign during the 2022/23 year. Our advocacy included providing “alternative points of view” and scientific papers to the latest Great Barrier Reef Scientific Consensus Statement review.
Fertiliser prices were recorded as some of the highest in history making the task of growing a profitable crop even harder. Bundaberg CANEGROWERS sought to facilitate a bulk purchase arrangement although not enough interest was received to proceed. The requirement for Nitrogen & Phosphorus Budgets was introduced from 1 December 2022 and a budget is now required before any fertiliser is applied to cane, including all plant cane and ratoons.
Energy and in particular electricity, is a major input to our farming systems and in 2022 we assisted with the development of an additional Small Business Tariff to increase choice and assist in keeping costs at an affordable level. Tariff 22C (solar soak tariff) was published on 9 June 2023 and released for use from 1 July 2023. Bundaberg CANEGROWERS continues to assist members with the Electricity Bill Check Service to ensure growers are on the most suitable tariff for their usage patterns.
We were heavily involved in the development of the Sunwater no regrets electricity cost pass through trial for irrigators in the Bundaberg region. In 2021/22, Sunwater spent less on electricity than was recovered from customers in the Bundaberg Distribution Scheme which meant eligible irrigation customers who used water in the 2021/22 water year had a credit of $13.26/ML applied to their bills in October 2022.
During the year we met with industry representatives from various organisations including David Quinn, CEO of Sugar Terminals Ltd to receive an update on the progress of upgrades of the Bundaberg Sugar Terminal facility as well as ensuring their decision to insource the operations of its six (6) Bulk Sugar Terminals does not affect our growers.
Bundaberg growers gained access to the QSL Direct Portal following the joint efforts of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS, Bundaberg Sugar and Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) with the signing of a new Sugar Marketing Agreement effective from the 2023 Season onwards. This saw QSL Executives visit the region in April to provide an information session on the roll-out of QSL Direct and assist growers to sign-up to the app and take advantage of the high sugar prices.
In February 2023 a group of young growers from the Mossman and Cairns regions were welcomed on their visit to the district and were provided a tour of our region to show the vast differences in our landscape and cropping compared with their hometowns. In the evening local growers were provided with the opportunity to attend a young growers networking event and form new connections.
We have unfinished business with the mayor and his current councillors and we will continue the campaign asking Mayor Dempsey and Bundaberg Regional Council to ensure that the Category 9 rate increases suffered from the 2020/21 budget are wound back such that the increase is no more than CPI and that going forward the Council adheres to the ‘Guideline on the equity and fairness in rating Queensland local governments’. We continue to provide support to the Bundaberg Regional Ratepayers Association which was formed to represent and support local ratepayers and is undertaking training of suitable candidates for 2024 Local Elections.
Tanya Howard commenced as Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Manager on 1 July 2022. This was a key step in the review process of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS. Tanya, who has been part of the Board’s succession plan for the past three (3) years, is well placed to take on the roles of our core business of negotiating and the aftercare of the Cane Supply and Processing Agreement and the Cane Analysis Program.
To those members who have lost family and loved ones in the past year I offer the Board’s and staff’s sincere and heartfelt condolences.
We are facing challenging times and the Board and staff of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS remain committed to providing grower biased, needs based and outcome focussed services, representation and leadership.
I acknowledge on behalf of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS and thank our local members of Government both State and Federal for their support in 2022/23. Their continued support to gain a better outcome for growers is much appreciated.
I would also like to thank all our staff for a job well done in the 2022/23 financial year. They all work very well together as a team and put together a strong campaign to give our members some wins in the last twelve (12) months. We may not always win but we are certainly out there voicing our concerns and representing our growers in many forms.
Thanks also to the Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Board members for their input and support over the past year and finally, thank you to you, our members.
To view Bundaberg CANEGROWER'S full Annual Report, click here