KAP to prevent sugar industry going sour

Sugar Cane producers across Queensland are one step closer to industry certainty with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by KAP member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth in Parliament this morning.

The Bill, the Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act 2015 will ensure cane growers across Queensland have a choice in the marketing of their own product and retain existing market arrangements.

“The sugar cane industry is one that sits at the heart of North Queensland all the way down to the Sunshine coast,” Mr Knuth said.

“This Bill addresses the imbalance in market power currently existing between mill owners and growers, and protects one of our largest, yet struggling industries.”

For over six months KAP has been consulting proactively with industry bodies and individual growers on a state and federal level seeking to ensure growers receive a fair price for their product and directly contribute to the amendment.

“This is something the cane growers, Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) and CANEGROWERS are all calling for,” he said. “The Bill has been a collaborative effort of these groups and will ensure that the industry remains sustainable and will allow it to grow and prosper.”

“The amendment we are proposing has almost zero cost to Government but provides huge benefits to the industry,” Mr Knuth said.

“We are sitting just behind Brazil and Thailand as the world’s third largest sugar producers and now isn’t the time for politicians to sit on their hands – the industry called for assistance, and we have delivered what they need”.

“Unless this issue is addressed the anti- competitive actions of corporate monopolies will have no obstacle when it comes to taking advantage of our producers,” he said.

As the minor party’s first Private Members Bill since the change of government Shane Knuth and Rob Katter say the prosperity of Australian producers and manufacturers is vital for the growth of the state.

"I understand other parties have been looking at a similar amendment so we look forward to their support in Parliament," KAP member for Mount Isa Rob Katter said.

“We hope to be able to work with the government and opposition on this, politics really has not place disrupting such a positive step in the right direction.”

The issue of fair sugar pricing has been on the industry’s agenda since one of Queensland’s largest milling groups announced its intention to break away from the independent marketing body and fair pricing structure Queensland Sugar Limited.

Shortly after, two other milling groups followed suit leaving farmers within the transportation area of the processors no choice but to accept the price allocated by the mill themselves.

“The mills have a captured market as growers simply can’t afford to transport their cane further afield in search of a better price,” Manager of Tableland Growers Bronwyn Dwyer said.

“Producers were already at the end of their tether before the announcement, with high water and electricity prices and low return on their product.”

However in an effort to combat the market change cane growers from the Atherton region joined to send their product over 100km away to be produced at a fair price under the Queensland Sugar Limited structure.

“They lost money on it this season but it shows you just how passionate our producers are about receiving a fair price and ensuring market certainty,” she said.

“If QSL goes, grower economic interest of sugar will go with it; we’ve already a similar thing happen to the dairy industry and other markets.”

General Manager of Australian Canefarmers Stephen Ryan who worked with KAP during this process believes the Bill will also help restore industry confidence.

“The foundation of the sugar market has always been partnership and confidence in the industry,” he said.

“Through this Bill we will grow confidence, which will also grow investment.”

CANEGROWERS Acting CEO Ron Mullins was also pleased with the announcement of the Bill by Mr Knuth.

"CANEGROWERS with the support of ACFA and all grower collectives across the state have been calling for Real Choice in raw sugar marketing to restore balance in the market for cane,” he said.

“We welcome the Bill and call on all parties in the Queensland parliament to support the initiative and through it the long term future of the industry and the regional communities it supports.