Peter and Steven Miotto with their Austoft harvester.
Peter and Steven Miotto with their Austoft harvester.

Contract harvesters sizing up 2017 crush

PROSERPINE sugarcane farmer and contractor Peter Miotto is preparing for another busy harvest, and one that even a fierce tropical cyclone only three months ago couldn't prevent.

Cyclone Debbie roared across the Queensland coast on March 28, just east of Proserpine at Airlie Beach and, but while her ferocity exacted a devastating toll on the state's agricultural resources, cane growers have carried on.

The national crop for the 2017 season was recently estimated at just under 34 million tonnes, understandably down on last year as a result of cyclone damage and ongoing drought in the southern cane region of Queensland.

Peter and wife Judy run a successful harvesting business from their farm about 200ha north of Proserpine.

Last year, Mr Miotto said his machines cut about 100,000 tonnes of cane - across about 1200ha - but, thanks to Debbie and another big rain event in May, it will be a slightly different story this season.

"There's been a fair bit of damage, a lot of broken cane, snapped cane, that sort of thing," he said.

"We'll be at least 20 per cent down (in this area) on last year because of the cyclone, and the sugar content will be affected a bit too."

Peter said for the contracting business, it would be a fairly slow season because of flattened cane and remnants of the cyclone, such as bits of tin and other rubbish, littering paddocks.

About 180km up the road from the Miottos at Ayr, Malcolm Searle and wife Idoya have just welcomed the contractors onto their two cane farms.

The Searles - whose sons Graham and Jeffrey work alongside them, with another son Adrian assisting on a part-time basis - also run about 1700 head of brahman cattle, something that sets them apart from many other producers in the sugar industry.