Rallying sugar prices have renewed frustrations for cane growers who still do not have contracts for the 2017 season in place.
In recent weeks global sugar prices have rallied to more than 16 cents a pound, but some growers still have no supply agreements in place after 2017 and they cannot capitalise on the prices.
Australia’s largest sugar miller, Wilmar, has no agreements in place, while growers further south in the Wide Bay have already signed contracts with MSF Sugar.
Canegrowers Mackay chairman Kevin Borg said angst was growing among local farmers who supplied Wilmar mills.
“Everybody knows that the price, in Australian dollar terms, has broken through the $500 mark and there are some views that it may go higher,” he said.
“This is really good news for the Australian sugar industry, but people that are supplying Wilmar are unable to take advantage of those prices … growers really feel that they are being ripped off.”
You do not see these prices very often in the lifetime of a cane grower, so we do need to be able to nail these prices.Kevin Borg, Canegrowers Mackay chairman
Wilmar met with cane grower collectives last month, the first time the groups had sat down together since the Queensland Parliament passed legislation in December that provided growers with the ability to choose a marketing entity.
Wilmar had stated previously that the legislation was complex and it would take time to work through, but draft supply agreements would be available for growers on June 30.
Confidence fades after meeting
At the meeting last month, Canegrowers and Wilmar stated they felt the sugar deal was “one step closer”.
Mr Borg said that confidence had now faded.
“We have not had any correspondence with Wilmar since that meeting last month, so I’ve got no faith,” he said.
“I think it will just be prolonged by them putting an agreement in front of us and hoping that it gets through, and I am pretty sure that will not be what growers are looking for.”
Canegrowers Mackay is now in the process of drafting correspondence to Wilmar.
“You do not see these prices very often in the lifetime of a cane grower, so we do need to be able to nail these prices,” Mr Borg said.
“This is costing growers and the communities around us a lot of money … this has got the potential to cost millions of dollars.”
A Wilmar spokesman said in a statement that while the company understood the concerns of growers, the situation was not of its making and it was working through complex drafting as quickly as possible.
The spokesman said the company had been keeping growers up to date, and the drafting of contracts would be finished by June 30.