Agribusiness & Food, Logistics, Ports & Terminals

Sugar sides at odds as Joyce hovers

The Federal Government has intensified its actions against illegal Indian sugar subsidies, backed by the Australian sugar industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has implored sugar growers and milling company Wilmar to sort out their differences or risk serious government intervention.

Joyce made an emergency visit to North Queensland last week to address issues between cane growers and the foreign-owned raw sugar producer over marketing agreements.

He said he had been “dragged up” to the region over the growers’ and Wilmar’s inability to come to terms on a deal which will enable production and marketing for the 2017 season.

“If you don’t want the clumsy fingers of government all through your business … get to work tomorrow and resolve it,” Joyce said, according to Fairfax.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Government will use a Freedom of Information request to obtain a Productivity Commission report into issues in the state’s sugar sector.

“This is an extraordinary step, but it’s a bid to save our sugar industry and there is no time to lose,” Queensland minister for agriculture Bill Byrne said.

Byrne said the FoI was a response to ‘threats’ from the Liberal National Party to introduce further regulations on an industry “that has been significantly damaged by their 2015 amendments to the Sugar Industry Act”.

“They are threatening to do this despite sugar millers warning it will ‘put the entire sugar industry at risk’,” Byrne said.

“The industry has real fears that these new amendments being planned by the LNP put the whole industry and the thousands of jobs it supports at risk.

“The Government shares those concerns.”

Byrne said any further regulations introduced by the LNP would be “an act of economic vandalism”.

He said the Productivity Commission report was handed to the Australian Government on November 15, but the Turnbull Government has “repeatedly refused” to release it.

“It is in the interests of everyone in the Queensland sugar industry to release the report now,” he said.

In a statement, Wilmar said it was working to reach a deal with marketer Queensland Sugar (QSL).

“Wilmar is committed to reaching a commercially reasonable agreement with QSL on the sale of our raw sugar as soon as possible,” a Wilmar spokesperson reportedly told AAP.

“We’ve met with QSL six times in the past four weeks and will meet again on [February 21] to work through the relatively small number of outstanding issues.”

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