A survey of farmers in Australia’s largest sugar cane growing area, the Burdekin district west of Townsville, has found farmers totally opposed to proposed industry deregulation, strongly in favour of a pool price for cane, and concerned that they are not being adequately represented to government.
The survey was conducted by the Sugar Industry Reform Group. Responses were restricted to one per farm, and 121 farms responded. It comes as the Queensland Government has a Bill to deregulate the industry before parliament.
The Bill is the result of the National Competition Policy process, which is a Federal Government initiative to deregulate specified sections of the Australian economy.
Farmers have been strongly resisting deregulation, as sugar is sold onto a highly corrupt world market where the world price is half the world average cost of production, thanks to huge subsidies in the main producing and exporting nations. Australia is the only sugar exporting country that sells its own sugar into the domestic market at the corrupt world price.
The Australian sugar industry has also been hit by drought, flood and pest problems on top of persistent low world prices.
The recent survey was conducted shortly after Queensland’s deregulation Bill was introduced into the state parliament.
The results showed that 100% of farms surveyed indicated that the current sugar deregulation bill before the Queensland Parliament would not improve the financial position of the sugar industry.
Asked if they believed the current price for sugar (set by the dumped world sugar price) would give an adequate return to farmers investments and a living for their families, 99% said “no”.
Asked if there needs to be a guaranteed minimum pool price for raw sugar of $350 a tonne, 94% agreed that this was needed to provide stability, confidence and investment to the industry.
Again, 98% said they did not believe that that their industry representatives and governments had a clear understanding of the needs of farmers or of their economic to the local, state and national economies.
Ninety-six percent said that they did not feel that their view had been clearly and forcefully represented to governments from their own industry body, Canegrowers Board.
- Pat Byrne