Growers push for sugar deal

Mike Knott

WITH sugar prices around US11.5 cents a pound and high input costs such as electricity, cane farmers want a bigger slice of the lucrative US sugar market.

Bundaberg growers Brian and Mark Pressler hosted an on farm visit for Federal Government members Keith Pitt and Ken O'Dowd in Bundaberg to stress the importance of trade discussions occurring in Hawaii over the weekend.

According to Mark, costs of production have soared in the past five years with electricity a prime example.

"To continue to grow cane and make ends meet and keep ourselves and the mill going is very hard at US11.5 cents per pound," he said.

According to Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle greater access to the US market is vitally important.

Mr Dingle said last year the US market was worth around US$500 a tonne of sugar.

This compared to around US$400 in other markets.

At US11.5 cents a pound this was around US$325 per tonne of sugar, well below cost of production

"Obviously if the trade barriers are taken down we will be getting higher prices and the sooner this happens the better," Mr Dingle said.

Member for Hinkler Mr Pitt and Member for Flynn Mr O'Dowd also called on Australian negotiators to ensure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) included a deal for sugar producers.

Mr Pitt said free trade negotiations between 12 countries, including five of Australia's top 10 trading partners, were entering final stages.

"Minister for Trade Andrew Robb has done a great job fighting for Australia in other free trade negotiations, and I urge him to ensure sugar is not forgotten in the TPP," Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt, who grew sugar cane in Bundaberg before entering Parliament, said Australia was the right trade partner to reward with increased market access for raw sugar.

Mr O'Dowd said Australian sugar producers were resilient

. "They battle drought, the carbon tax and ever increasing electricity prices but they can't continue to survive a farm gate price which is lower than the cost of production," he said.

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