Molasses malaise deepens with droughtCharlie McKillop, Thursday October 10, 2013 - 14:53 EDT
The sugar industry has defended its role in keeping up the supply of molasses to graziers feeding cattle in drought-stricken districts in Queensland.
As the end of the crushing season looms, there are fears the supply of the potentially life-saving supplement might dry up altogether as milling companies fulfil their export obligations.
The Australian Sugar Milling Council's Dominic Nolan says domestic buyers are always given first option on what has become an increasingly valuable part of the sugar production chain.
"We certainly understand the pressures that cattle producers are under," he said.
"There is a reality, however, around the commercial arrangements that can't be broken and a lot of cattle producers have locked in already, and that is the best way to make sure that access to molasses is there, when it's required."
"I understand there are still spot sales of molasses available from some mills around the state, so there is still some molasses available, but as we get to the end of the season, those supplies will be tightening up."
Mr Nolan has ruled out stockpiling molasses. He says sugar mills do not have storage capacity and cannot carry the risk of holding reserves that may or may not be sold once the current drought breaks.
Some beef producers in north-western Queensland are reporting delays of up to six weeks in getting molasses due to a lack of trucks to deliver it.
Mr Nolan says the best insurance policy a grazier can have is a farm storage tank.
"Molasses is very storable. It can be kept on properties for years, it doesn't go off in those circumstances and many cattle producers do do that. They store molasses on farm for use when they need it as a feeding supplement.
"It's just one of the inevitable challenges that we've got in dealing with dry and drought conditions and I think we're all looking at ways we can better manage those circumstances."
© ABC 2013
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