21 January 2015
Today cane farmers across Queensland are buoyed by news that the first party on the election trail has answered their passionate calls to take action to fix the market failure which is ripping confidence from the State’s cane growers and placing their very futures at the mercy of monopoly millers.
CANEGROWERS and the Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) have today welcomed a commitment by the LNP that they will legislate if necessary. At a meeting in Ingham today, Minister for Agriculture, John McVeigh told growers that if millers do not re-enter negotiations around marketing of Queensland’s sugar in good faith and growers are left disadvantaged, they will take legislative action.
“The announcement re-enforces to our State’s cane growers that they are being heard on this important issue and shows the kind of genuine leadership our State’s farmers need our political parties to be taking to restore their confidence in farming,” the Chairman of CANEGROWERS, Paul Schembri.
“It is a much needed assurance that they will not be left exposed to the commercial imbalance of power which has been wrested from them by the mills.”
The confidence of growers has been rocked as growers grapple with having their long-standing rights and protections wrested away as by large corporate millers seeking to take on marketing of 100% of the sugar themselves. The issue arose when three of Australia’s largest mills announced that they would leave the industry joint grower and miller owned marketing arrangements.
What has unravelled is a bitter dispute, as growers rise up – looking to government to reinstate measures put in place over 100 years ago to protect them in dealings with their large regional monopoly millers.
Don Murday, Chairman of ACFA says that up until now, growers have had a say over how two-thirds of their sugar was marketed. “Growers take two thirds of the risk in the production of the sugar and the systems in place had given them a say over the very mechanism by which they are paid,” he says.
Mr Murday says that the mills’ moves to take all sugar marketing on itself would also open the door for mills to be able to move costs around in intra-company transactions, a concern for growers who will no longer have certainty they are getting their fair share of the profits.
The announcement by the LNP comes just days after the results of a decisive survey of growers was released. The survey showed that 97% of growers want to be able to choose the marketer of their sugar and 95% said that government needs to intervene to protect their rights in this regard. 93% said they don’t trust their miller to share the profits fairly if they are not made to do so. 90% said they didn’t want access to an independent marketer taken away.
CANEGROWERS and ACFA are again calling on the millers to enter the marketing negotiations in good faith. Don Murday, Chairman of the ACFA says that CANEGROWERS and ACFA are calling on all parties coming into the election to game up and make strong commitments to fix the commercial imbalance and rectify a plain and simple market failure. “It would be perilous for any future government to ignore such a strong message,” Mr Murday says.
Paul Schembri | CANEGROWERS Queensland Chairman | 0417 604 196
Don Murday | Australian Cane Farmers Association Chairman | 0418 774 499
Stephen Ryan | Australian Cane Farmers Association CEO | 0401 002 322
Suzi Moore | CANEGROWERS Communications | 0427 641 239