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AU: Defeated pineapple grower turns to cane

Rising input costs, complex labour requirements and competition from imports have seen a number of pineapple growers leave the industry.

But the reputable Buchanan family, near Gympie, is staying in farming and has turned to sugar cane.

And its first 500-tonne delivery destined for Maryborough is a special milestone for both the family and the mill.

Second generation pineapple grower Peter Buchanan, from Sandowne Pineapple near Gympie, made the big move into cane last year.

He's replanting his 300-acre pineapple farm with cane over four years and is ready to harvest his first batch.

And MSF Sugar in Maryborough is welcoming the new supply from the region, after it sold its cane farm near Gympie six years ago after multiple bad seasons.

Mr Buchanan says it's a big change, but he believes cane is a much more viable industry.

"Pineapple, like all horticulture, is very labour-intensive and we've just become non-competitive in the world and we just can't see any future in that," he said.

A contract harvester will cut Mr Buchanan's cane and the mill will send a truck the 90 kilometres to the farm to pick it up.

General manager of the Maryborough region for MSF Sugar, Stewart Norton, says the distance is worth it.

He says the mill has been working hard to bring its throughput back up to profitable levels.

"We are more than hapy to accept cane from that area - it's a good growing region and it's cost-effective," he said.

"We will crush about 700,000 tonnes this year, but the mill can actually process about 900,000 tonnes a year. And sugar milling is a fixed cost business so you need the throughput to make your money.

"So we're doing quite a lot actually offering growers loans to grow cane."

Both Mr Norton and Mr Buchanan added that pine-growing land produced very good quality cane.


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