IDEAL seasonal conditions and new varieties coming online have paved the way for above-average sugar content in NSW cane crops this winter and set the scene for a record spring plant.
Average commercial cane sugar (CCS) percentages have been about 12 and the average for the year to date is about 11, well above both the five-year average and the forecast for this time of year.
Despite a wet start, the mild winter, and lack of frosts, the current sunny, dry weather has provided excellent cane cut conditions.
While quality has improved markedly, the amount of cane crushed is behind forecasts due largely to reoccurring early-year floods.
With crushing across the three mills at Condong, Harwood and Broadwater due to finish mid to late November, 435,524 tonnes of a forecast 1.4m tonne crop has been cut.
However, harvest is now in full swing thanks to the run of sunny weeks and growers have been busy getting started on planting, which will continue until mid November.
NSW Canegrowers Association chairman Wayne Rogers said grower confidence was high on the back of continuing strong global sugar prices and the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative's successful hedging program which had provided added price security.
"Growers will be looking to get all available land under cane, both to recover from the floods early this year and to take advantage of strong prices," he said.
Mr Rogers said the upcoming plant could well exceed last season's massive plant of more than 8000 hectares across the three milling areas, which was itself a 30 per cent increase on typical planting area.
Growers were still feeling the financial hardship of the flood devastation but the co-op's plant loan scheme should help bridge gaps to get crop in the ground, he said.
While the dry weather was suiting the cane industry perfectly at the moment, growers would be look- ing for rain once they planted, he said.
Meanwhile, the co-operative, which trades as Sunshine Sugar, has been recognised for being at the forefront on energy efficiencies, taking out the top prize in the food and beverage section of the Pace Zenith Awards.
The awards provide a platform for innovative teams across Australia to share their work and nominations were received in numerous industry sectors.
The Sunshine Sugar award was based on the installation of a Siemens 184 kilowatt AC Motor Drive combination replacing the drive system on the centrifugal set-up at the Har-wood sugar mill.
The installation has delivered savings of more than 40pc in energy consumption.
Sunshine Sugar's senior electrical superintendent Brian Jackson said despite having a smaller sized motor and drive, the installation had seen no power lost and achieved harmonics of less than one per cent, with a reduction from 1.7kW to 1kW hour/tonne of massecuite.
Chief executive officer Chris Connors said Sunshine Sugar was proud of its continued success in delivering innovative solutions in energy efficiencies as part of its improvement program across the business.
"Sunshine Sugar is in fact now the only Australian-owned sugar refinery and the first on a world-wide basis to attain the sustainability certification from Bonsucro," he said.
"We need to be at the forefront in our improvement programs to be able to support a successful future in the face of ever-increasing pressure from international competitors.
"Our growers and community rely on and expect this outcome."