The Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Bill 2015, passed through the Queensland Parliament on Wednesday 2 December 2015. The Bill was introduced into the Queensland Parliament by Mr Shane Knuth MP, member for Dalrymple and passed with amendments from Mr Kuth and Mrs Deb Frecklington, Member for Nanango (LNP) and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The supporting vote of Mr Billy Gordon, member for Cook was the critical vote to pass this essential legislation.
The Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) acknowledges Katter’s Australian Party, the Liberal National Party and Billy Gordon for recognising that the plight of Queensland’s cane farmers and regional communities transcends politics and for working together in order to pass the legislation.
ACFA Chairman Don Murday says that, ‘Greater than four thousand cane farmers in Queensland have relied on the passage of this Bill in order to:
- ‘Prevent farmers from being discriminated against by powerful global sugar millers and traders;
- ‘Balance the regional monopoly power of sugar millers who dictate the terms of contract to farmers;
- ‘Enable farmers to continue to have a choice of marketer for their share of the raw sugar (GEI sugar);
- ‘Implement a dispute resolution system, which can be accessed by either party, in order to agree on fair terms and conditions for cane supply contracts.’
‘The industry as we know it has been built on the foundation that farmers are paid for the sugar that is in their sugarcane; and which is marketed by the jointly-owned marketing company, Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL). This system of marketing gives farmers the confidence to continue to supply sugar mills with sugarcane.’
‘The Bill is necessary and very fair because it:
- ‘Allows choice, so that farmers can choose between their mill and the farmers’ marketer of choice;
- ‘Freely allows farmers and millers to find agreement on matters of contention, without automatically needing to use the dispute resolution system;
- ‘Takes effect, only if and when mills cannot effectively negotiate appropriate supply agreements with growers. ’
Mr Murday says that the job ahead is for farmers and millers to focus on putting fair and reasonable contracts in place in order to allow farmers to price their GEI sugar.
‘I urge the mills and the Queensland Government to accept the Bill and to cease attempts to contest it, so that farmers and millers can focus on putting pricing in place for farmers to manage their risk.
‘The communities of sugar regions rely on the business confidence of farmers and the Bill paves the way to remove the damaging uncertainly that has been a pall over these towns.
‘Mills can get on with crushing cane and the workers’ jobs will be more secure because farmers will grow and supply the cane which is essential to the viability of sugar mills.
‘Throughout this conflict, mills have been able to manage their own risk through forward pricing but farmers have been held in limbo unless they signed ‘take it or leave it’ proposals from mills, which is not acceptable.
‘The industry marketer, Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) has also been held in a state of uncertainty and we need to move on so that farmers can access their own marketer, QSL’.