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Tully's sweet smell of success

Written by: Sally Cripps story published by North Queensland register November 2015
Posted on: 15 Oct 2015
Topic: General Articles

RECORDS are tumbling at Tully Sugar's mill as it cranks up for what many expect will be the best harvest in many years in far north Queensland this year. 

Chinese-owned subsidiary, COFCO is stamping, squeezing and wringing the last drops of a harvest expected to hit 2.8 million tonnes.

It's an outcome described as a double-edged sword by the mill's general manager Barry Dun, who said the huge crop meant that Tully Sugar is looking down the barrel of not being able to process all its cane.

"The mill had to delay its June start until midway through the month, thanks to wet weather;' he said. "That made the cane grow more. In one way, it was exactly what was needed."

Delays contribute to a general loss of revenue for growers faced with standing over of crops, and Mr Dun said it was something Tully Sugar did everything to avoid.

"We have calculated, if we don't lose too much time, we should get the crop off by Christmas Eve," he said.

"It's always difficult with a crop that size."

The average yield of cane in the region is 85 tonnes per hectare but this year, Tully Sugar has calculated it will be close to 100 tonnes per hectare.

"If we don't lose too much time, we should get the crop off by Christmas Eve"

Barry Dun, Tully Sugar

Tully likes to claim the record as Queensland's wettest town and so stoppages are a part of life for the mill.

So far this year it has lost around 300 processing hours.

"The worst we've had is three times that amount;' Mr Dun said. "What we have now isn't too extreme"

With world sugar prices still poor and only just showing signs of recovery, every extra tonne in production will make a difference to growers.

Mr Dun said the Australian dollar had been down a bit but was floating back up, which was "trimming the price back"

"The increased volume of cane in Tully has no effect on world prices, but the volume up helps local revenue;' he said.

"It's all the more reason we're keen to get the crop off"

Both rail and road transport is used to deliver harvested sugar to the mill, and Tully Sugar maintains 26lkm of rail track, and has nine locomotives and 1550 bins.

IT's situated in the wettest ar- ea of Australia, where rainfall is measured in metres, but Tully sugarcane growers produce up to 300,000 tonnes. of raw sugar for export most years.

Around 32,000 hectares is under sugarcane, with another 6000 hectares of bananas.

Cane arrives at the mill via the 280km rail network, where it passes through a shredder and then five crushing mills that extract as much juice as possible.

The mill at Tully uses bagasse, the fibre remaining after crushing, as fuel for its boiler, which provides steam to power the whole factory, including electricity generating turbines.

As a result, the mill is virtually independent of external energy needs.

Some of the energy goes towards boiling off water from the cane juice, which then goes through a number of evaporating and spinning processes. The final product is transported by road to Mourilyan Harbour, where the whole Tully Sugar harvest is sent


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