A rescue package to safeguard sugar industry jobs in the Wide Bay Burnett region hangs in the balance as the Queensland election looms, with industry leaders urging the Labor Party to commit funds before this weekend’s election.

A Queensland Government contribution of $6.33 million is needed to ensure a $20.55 million infrastructure improvement plan can be implemented so that Maryborough region growers can deliver sugarcane to a mill in Childers.

While no decision has been made by MSF Sugar to cease operations at its Maryborough Mill, the company has worked with industry stakeholders to examine various options for crushing the cane grown in the region. With Isis Central Sugar Mill (ICSM) and CANEGROWERS Maryborough, a five-year plan has been developed that could see sugarcane currently contracted to the Maryborough Sugar Mill transferred to ICSM, near Childers.

During the election campaign the Liberal National Party has committed to the plan and the industry is now urging the ALP to also announce it will provide the necessary funds should it again form government after this weekend’s election.

“The incoming Queensland Government must be ready to work with industry and the Australian Government to deliver the package and secure the future of sugar industry jobs in the southern cane region,” said CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan.

“Maryborough growers need to be confident they’ll have access to a mill to process their cane in order to plan future crops.”

“Carting sugarcane all the way to Isis Central Sugar Mill will keep hundreds of people in work but it will also add costs, and the industry needs some State Government support,” he added.

Australian Sugar Milling Council CEO David Pietsch said that the owners of Maryborough Sugar Mill, MSF Sugar, had committed a sizeable contribution towards the plan and it was time for Government to also come to the party.

“Time is short and the industry needs to know the funding has been secured so that the necessary infrastructure can be put in place before next year’s crush, to provide certainty to growers, mill workers and the local communities that are so dependent on the sugar industry,” Mr Pietsch said.

“Jobs in the region are already going to be lost as a result of the closure of the Bingera Sugar Mill at Bundaberg and the possible mill closure at Maryborough, so this investment will be critical to stabilise the Isis Central Sugar Mill and support farming businesses in the region,” he concluded.

The proposed plan includes building a transloader facility, expanding the rail network and improving the efficiency of road transport.

The total package will secure:

  • 76 Maryborough growers will continue to supply 380,000 tonnes of cane to a local mill to supply local and global markets;
  • 110 jobs in harvesting and field haulage operations and cane transportation otherwise at risk if cane cannot be transported to Isis mill;
  • 681 direct and indirect FTE jobs at Isis Central mill and $99.2 million in local economic activity;
  • 40 new ongoing seasonal jobs created in the operation of the Isis Central mill;
  • 44 jobs in the construction of the transloader facility;
  • 8027 megawatt hours additional renewable energy created and exported from the Isis Mill
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