A rebel group of Mackay Sugar cane growers will nominate their own marketer for the 2018 crushing season in an bid to bring a stalemate over marketing choice to a head.
About 50 farmers in the Independent Bargaining Representative group plan to make the move.
However, a Mackay Sugar spokesperson said the company was still negotiating with Queensland Sugar Limited for an on-supply agreement, which is required between a miller and a marketer before growers can negotiate their share of sugar.
The Mackay Sugar area lags behind other Queensland cane growing areas in that, for 2018 and beyond, there is no ‘grower choice’ agreement between the miller and its growers.
The IBR group claims that more than 60 per cent of ‘grower economic interest sugar’ is currently marketed using a direct marketing method, where the grower supplies cane to the mill and the mill crushes it and is paid for its share of sugar proceeds as per the Cane Supply and Processing Agreement.
Growers nominate which marketer they want to handle their share and then growers are paid directly by that marketer. These marketers have been an entity associated with the mill, or QSL.
QSL’s existing agreement with Mackay Sugar, to market all sugar from its mills, expires at the end of the 2019 crush.
Unless Mackay Sugar reaches an on-supply agreement with QSL, growers will only have Mackay Sugar’s marketing arm.
By nominating their own marketer, the breakaway group hopes to gain more transparency.
“… with the 2018 season not far away, there has been too much delay with MSL in the discussions for the necessary changes to the Cane Supply and Processing Agreement with growers and the new agreements with marketers,” IBR stated.
“Under Queensland legislation, there is an expectation that MSL will now provide the necessary changes to the CSPA and the required agreements for marketers to enable direct marketing with growers for the 2018 season and thereafter.”
The Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act, passed in State Parliament in 2015, gave growers marketing choice and has the support of Canegrowers.
“Mackay Sugar is continually in discussions with all bargaining representatives on a range of items … ,” a MSL spokesperson said.
“We have an agreed CSPA that governs how the operations and commercial arrangements work between the parties. We all have to work by this agreement.
“The agreed CSPA has elements where there is consultation and agreement, and other areas where elements can be exercised at either party’s discretion.”
The spokesperson said in the future Mackay Sugar would also develop OSAs with other marketers if required.
QSL began a series of information meetings in the Mackay region yesterday and the IBR group urged all growers to attend.
Each session will be hosted by QSL chief executive and managing director Greg Beashel, who will answer grower questions and update them on the steps required for Mackay Sugar growers to continue accessing QSL beyond the 2019 season.