South Johnstone Mill Crushing Season To Commence On Schedule Despite Flood Damage to Crops


17 May 2018


MSF Sugar’s South Johnstone Mill expects to see 1,732,500 tonnes of sugarcane harvested across its cane supply area for the 2018 season, with mill operations scheduled to commence on Tuesday 12 June.

A total of 303 growers will supply South Johnstone Mill in 2018, with 42 harvesting groups working to harvest sugarcane from around 22,000 hectares.

With three major flooding events taking place across North Queensland during October, February and March, and with 245,000 tonnes of sugarcane scheduled to be transferred to MSF Sugar’s Mulgrave Mill for crushing this year, South Johnstone Mill’s estimated crush of 1,487,500 sits just below 2017 season levels when 1,522,493 tonnes were crushed.

South Johnstone Mill Manager Kim Kendall said that while the severe weather conditions were not out of character for a North Queensland wet season, the impact on yields may still be felt by individual growers whose crops were inundated by rain during a critical time in the growing cycle.

“The 2018 crop has experienced significant rainfall over the past 6 months and even when not in flood, the rainfall levels were high with over 2 metres experienced in March 2018 alone. This has had an impact on yield for some individual growers in the South Johnstone growing region whose sugarcane growth was stunted by waterlogged fields, combined with significantly lower sunlight levels during March.

“As we look to the season ahead we are hopeful of lengthy periods of sunshine to minimise the impact of wet weather on the harvest. Long season length leads to extremely high wear on critical plant and high levels of trash in the cane can cause reliability issues at the Mill.

“Last season, while we had an average sized crop for our operations, we did experience reliability issues with our No.5 Mill which impacted on season length. We have since taken steps to upgrade our equipment significantly with $670k invested in the No.5 Mill alone” Mr Kendall said.

During the non-crushing season more than $11.5 million has been spent on capital and maintenance improvements, predominantly using local engineering, support businesses and labour, to ensure that known reliability issues were addressed.

This includes significant investment such as $2.3 million on the replacement of the Boiler No.3 Chimney Stack and continuing with the $6.5 million upgrade to the South Johnstone Cane Bin fleet.

Other major initiatives include the replacement of Calleja’s cane rail bridge, upgrades to the girders on the Russo cane rail bridge, locomotive transmission overhauls, and significant improvements to site workshop facilities and site safety systems to improve working conditions for the 271 people directly employed by South Johnstone Mill during the crushing season.

From 12 June the 2018 crush will operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and based on an operating rate of 540 tonnes per hour, is expected to run for around 22 weeks.

With overall weather conditions currently favourable for growers, attention will soon turn to the all-important Commercial Cane Sugar (CCS) results, which provide an estimate of the sugar yield from cane supplied to the Mill. The most dominant sugarcane varieties for the South Johnstone growing region are Q200 and Q208.




With the 2018 crushing season about to commence, journalists are asked to advise motorists and pedestrians that with cane railway lines being assessed in preparation for the season, cane trains and associated vehicles are now active throughout the cane rail network.

Motorists are required to give way at all level crossings and pedestrians are asked to refrain from walking along the tracks – it is particularly dangerous to utilise the network as a place to walk a dog off-lead.

Once the season is underway on Tuesday 12 June, the cane rail network will operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week until the completion of harvest. Up to 11 locomotives will be operating at any one time across the South Johnstone harvesting network.


Image Above: During the non-crushing season more than $11.5 million was invested in capital improvements to address known reliability issues at MSF Sugar’s South Johnstone Mill, including $2.3 million on the replacement of the Boiler No.3 Chimney – seen here with a birds eye view during construction.


For more information please contact:
Wendy Hughes
MSF Sugar Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager
Mob: 0417 043 954