Australia sugar production forecast drops after crop damage

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Photo courtesy of [Stoonn] \ FreeDigitalPhotos

The country’s sugar output may be lower than earlier estimated as Yellow Canopy Syndrome in some growing regions curbed yields according to government forecaster Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Photo courtesy of [Stoonn] \ FreeDigitalPhotos
Photo courtesy of [Stoonn] \ FreeDigitalPhotos
The bureau said today on Reuters that sugar production in the 2013/14 season will total 4.25 million tonnes, down6.5 % from its June prediction of 4.54 million tonnes.

The decline reflects “lower average sugar yields, due in part to canopy syndrome disease in the Bundaberg and Isis regions” as well as flood damage to new plantings in early 2013, said ABARES.

More than 60% of the available cane crop was crushed by the end of last week.

Researcher Dr. Nader Sallam believes stress has a lot to do with the yellowing of the cane but it is probably not the cause. Yellow Canopy Syndrome is a complex condition and is not yet fully understood.

The sugar cane industry is worth more than $2 B dollars a year to the Queensland economy. With such high figures at stake, it is currently being tackled by a scientific reference panel of plant scientists funded by the Sugar Research Development Corporation, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Queensland and BSES Limited.

Meanwhile, sugar prices have plunged 51% according to Businessweek since the three-decade high in 2011 as growers from the country as well as Brazil and Mexico raised output.

Raw-sugar for delivery in March slid 0.9 % to 17.53 cents a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York yesterday. Prices reached 36.08 cents in February 2011.

Exports may reach 3 million tons from 3.2 million tons forecast in June.

The Australian Sugar Milling Council forecasts this year’s sugar cane harvest at about 30.6 million tons, down from expectations of as much as 33 million tons.

An information sheet on Yellow Canopy Syndrome has now been published to help growers identify YCS and compare it against other conditions.