• GVP $73.6 million est. Up 13% yoy.
  • Production increased 9% in 2020-21 season yoy, crushing 1.74 million tonnes of cane.
  • Area harvested in 2020 season was 14,712 ha.
Production of sugarcane in NSW in 2020-21 increased by 9% over the prior drought impacted season, to total 1.74 million tonnes of cane supported by a 6% increase in cane yield, an average 118.5 tonnes per hectare, and a minor increase in the area harvested. Global prices for sugar increased through 2020-21 reflecting dry growing conditions in major producing countries including Brazil and Thailand in 2019-20. In the medium and longer term, competition from other high value agricultural enterprises will potentially limit the total area available for cane growing in New South Wales.

Technology used to assess sugarcane growth

Wollongbar Soils team assessing the benefits to soil physical properties and sugarcane growth following a mixed species cover crop vs fallow. Technology including Saturo automated Ksat and GNDVI being used alongside traditional methods.
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More than 800 foreign workers to ease NSW farm labour shortage

The NSW Government has moved to support primary producers by granting conditional approval for 815 overseas seasonal workers to enter the State, Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall announced in February.

Mr Marshall said the workers from Pacific Island countries such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu, would work in the State’s horticulture and meat processing industries.

“The NSW Government has given the green light for an additional 815 workers to enter the State, a welcome boost for our primary producers,” Mr Marshall said.

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Sugarcane production by area harvested and yield

  • Area harvested for milling (ha)
  • Sugarcane yield (t/ha)
Source: ASMC (2021)
Production of sugarcane in NSW in 2020-21 increased by 9% over the prior drought impacted season, to total 1.74 million tonnes, although this was still 12% below the 5-year annual average to 2018-19. 39 This production represented just over 5% of total cane crushed in Australia in 2020.

The lift in cane crushed was predominantly due to increased yield with New South Wales cane harvested per hectare increasing 6% year-on-year, to average 118.5 tonnes per hectare in 2020. For the 2020 harvest season, 60% of the area harvested was cut as two-year old cane. 189 Given that the New South Wales harvest period typically runs from June to December most of the 2020 season’s harvest relates to the 2020-21 financial year.

Increased production was also attributable to a 2% increase year-on-year in area harvested for milling, which increased to 14,712 ha. However, this area harvested for milling was still 6% below the 5-year average to 2019. 39 Moderating overall production, the 2020 crop’s commercial cane sugar content was 11.93 CCS, 3% lower than the prior year.

Harvesting of 1- or 2-year-old crops in NSW

The NSW sugarcane industry has adapted to the lower temperatures experienced in the growing regions of the Northern Rivers. NSW growers utilise various agronomic and harvesting strategies, along with the planting of more frost tolerant varieties to successfully manage these conditions. A key strategy is the harvesting of sugarcane crops as either 1-year old (yo) or 2-yo crops in response to seasonal conditions. 184

Consequently, the commercial yields in NSW are a mix of 1-yo and 2-yo crops. The share of 1-yo cane contributing to the NSW total annual harvest varies between years and mills, and is determined by yield monitoring and the agroclimatic conditions that a crop experiences such as drought or frost, as well as mill supply requirements.

In the 2020 season the share of 1-yo cane harvested of the total area harvested ranged from 24% in the Broadwater mill area to 75% in the Condong mill area. Yields of cane harvested ranged from 75 t/ha for 1-yo cane and 132 t/ha for 2-yo cane at Broadwater and 108.9 t/ha and 142.0 t/ha for 1-yo cane and 2-yo cane respectively harvested in the Condong mill area. After accounting for the sugar content (commercial cane sugar) of the cane harvested, 1-yo cane yielded 12.9 tonnes of sugar per hectare equivalent to 82% of sugar produced per hectare from 2-yo crops in 2020 from the Condong mill area. While sugar yields of 1-yo crops at Broadwater were only 56% of 2-yo crop sugar yields for the 2020 season. 189

Share of NSW mills total cane harvested as 1-year old crop

Source: SUNSHINE SUGAR (various)


World sugar production and consumption balance and price o p

  • Sugar futures price (USD/lb)
  • Global Net Production ('000 tonnes)
Source: QUANDL (2021) , USDA (various)
Global prices for sugar increased through 2020-21 following lower global production amongst major producers such as Brazil, India and Thailand in 2019-20. This resulted in a production-consumption deficit and a decline in ending stocks amongst key producing countries. Consequently, there have been price surges in first half of 2021 with the average futures contract price for raw sugar (ICE Futures Sugar #11) 20% higher in 2021. 206 211 62


The majority of New South Wales sugar production is consumed domestically, however $1.73 million as solid form was exported in 2020-21 which is 37% lower than the previous year. New Zealand is the major export market and was valued at $1.43 million in 2020-21 representing 82% of the total value of exports. Other key markets tend to vary from year-to-year with exports to Hong Kong valued at $0.1 million in 2020-21. In addition to sugar, New South Wales exported $0.2 million by value of molasses in 2020-21, with China the major market destination. 128 Imports of minimally processed cane products totalled $3.3 million in 2020-21, 22% lower than the prior year and predominantly sourced from China, India and the United States. 128
Sunlight through sugarcane from below

Macroeconomic Conditions

Sugarcane harvesting
Global growth in the demand for sugar has moderated over the last five years with a compound annual growth rate of 0.7%, a result of a combination of increasing consumption amongst developing countries and stable or decreasing consumption amongst developed countries. On the supply side, a key driver of global sugar markets remains India’s policy decisions regarding export subsidies. India has been a net exporter of sugar in recent years and was the third largest in 2019-20 with the Government of India’s export subsidies influencing global sugar prices. 174 At the same time in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar exporter, sugarcane mills alter their mix of sugar or ethanol production in response to world sugar demand and supply conditions. This has the effect of moderating excess surpluses or deficits in the sugar industry. With reduced demand for oil and ethanol following the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on travel, more of Brazil’s sugarcane production was being directed towards sugar production in 2020-21. 63 Overall, dry conditions experienced in the key exporting countries Brazil and Thailand in 2020-21 are expected to limit global sugar supply in the current production year. This has led to surges in world sugar prices in the first half of 2021. However, it is expected that sustained price increases will encourage increased production from the major exporting nations in 2021-22. 62


Globally the sugar industry has demonstrated capacity to lift production in response to increased prices. Key exporting countries Brazil, India and Thailand, alongside production from sugar beet producing countries are expected to lift sugar production in 2021-22. 211 At the same time, ethanol production remains an important alternative market for sugarcane. Demand for oil is expected to increase as global travel restrictions ease following the Covid-19 pandemic, along with increased interest in biofuels including in India and Thailand that use sugarcane as a feedstock, this alternate demand for sugarcane may provide some buffering of global sugar prices. 166 64
Locally, improved growing conditions in New South Wales following rains in summer 2020-21, has supported cane growth for the 2021 crushing season. 146 In the medium and longer term, competition for land from high value alternate crops such as macadamia orchards will continue, limiting the total area available for cane growing in New South Wales and areas of southern Queensland. 41