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Australia Sugar Cane Crop Seen Curbed in 2014 If Drought Spreads

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Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The sugar cane harvest in Australia may be curbed next year if drought that has covered more than two-thirds of Queensland state spreads, according to producers’ group Canegrowers.

“We are starting to get increasingly worried,” Chairman Paul Schembri said by phone from Mackay today. This year’s output won’t be affected as the harvest is 50 percent to 60 percent complete and crops along the state’s coastline aren’t hit by the drought, he said. Australia, the world’s third-biggest sugar exporter, harvests cane between June and December.

Drought has been declared in more than 60 percent of Queensland, which accounts for about 95 percent of national production, after the state suffered its fifth-driest August on record. The country’s raw sugar output may total 4.3 million metric tons in 2013-2014, 4.4 percent less than previously estimated after disease curbed yields, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences said yesterday.

“The drought will become problematic for 2014, next year’s crop,” Schembri said. “If it continues to stay dry, we’ll start to be in a serious situation.”

Queensland has an equal chance of a wetter or drier-than-normal September to November, according to the weather bureau.

The production forecast was cut by Abares because of the yellow canopy syndrome. The disease causes leaves to turn yellow and can exaggerate crop stress, leading to stalled growth and poor production.

The Australian Sugar Milling Council estimates the 2013 cane crop at 30.6 million tons from 33 million tons estimated earlier this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phoebe Sedgman in Melbourne at psedgman2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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