Cane growers in North Queensland are calling for the Sugar Code of Conduct to be expanded to include by-products like molasses.
The calls come after a series of public hearings were held in major sugar growing districts across the North last week with growers and the panel in charge of reviewing the code.
Cane growers were overwhelmingly in support of keeping the code, which was introduced in April 2017 to ensure millers could not abuse their monopoly of power when negotiating pricing with growers in their district.
Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said growers in his district supported the code and some hope that it would actually be strengthened.
“We had a good roll up of plenty of growers and there was a lot of interaction between the panel and the growers,” Mr Pisano said.
“It was a very united set of opinions that came from the floor, with every comment along the similar lines of that we must keep the cost as it is delivering stability.
“Without the code growers still remember the difficulty in getting a cane supply agreement, and they would be loathe to see it go.
“The growers left that meeting with a degree of confidence to see that there is so much support locally for the retention of the code.
”We are hoping that the powers that be reviewing it will see that as we are all of one united voice.”
Mr Pisano said growers in the Wilmar milling regions were particularly keen to keep the code after they lost out on higher sugar prices that were secured in other regions due to a delay in reaching an agreement.
“Other regions were a bit more cooperative, but by the time we managed to get a cane supply agreement signed, prices had already dropped and $30-$40 million was lost in this district alone some 18 months ago, when some other districts were able to pick up those prices.
“We were on the very peak and they drooped about $200 a tonne less than that.”
Mr Pisano said growers wanted to strengthen the code to encompass more than just sugar.
“Some growers had made their view known that it should be strengthened to not just deal with the supply of cane for sugar, to to encompass other products that could be made from sugar like molasses.
“In the past, Cane Supply Agreements used to have a share of molasses included in the agreement but Wilmar removed that from the CSAs now and won’t allow collective bargaining on anything other than sugar.
“Instead they have taken out letters of understanding to deal with things like molasses, and they have to go it alone, so its one grower gong against the multinational.”