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Cairns Cabinet should secure $220M sugar boost

31 August 2020 | The Palaszczuk Government can generate a $220 million four year sweetener for regional Queensland’s COVID-19 recovery with a 25% reduction in irrigation water charges, the Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) said today.

ASMC Chief Executive Officer David Pietsch said today’s State Cabinet meeting in Cairns should prioritise irrigation water pricing relief for the sugar industry, which contributes more than $4 billion to the State’s economy and supports 23,000 jobs across Queensland.

Mr Pietsch said the $220 million boost (*see report) would be spread across irrigated sugarcane-growing regions with the potential for an additional economic injection of:

  • $104.6 million for Burdekin region
  • $75.4 million for Mackay region
  • $33.9 million for Bundaberg/Burnett and Wide Bay region
  • $6.5 million for Tablelands

“With only two months until the election, ASMC is seeking urgent talks with the Queensland Government on the future of irrigation water prices. The current freeze for this financial year provides no comfort for the industry that has worked hard to persevere through COVID-19,” Mr Pietsch said.

“The sugar industry has continued growing, harvesting and crushing cane while we know many regional businesses have unfortunately had to close.”

“The Government should be working with the sugar industry to maximise the contribution we can make to Queensland’s COVID-19 recovery,” he added.

Government froze irrigation water prices in May, but only for 2020/21 following an earlier recommendation by the Queensland Competition Authority for further substantial price increases in the regulated Water Supply Schemes that service the State’s cane fields for the period 2020/21 to 2023/24.

Getting clarity on who will pay for the proposed $350 million safety upgrade at the Burdekin Falls Dam is also critical.

Around two-thirds of Queensland’s sugarcane production is dependent on irrigation and water represents more than 15% of a sugarcane irrigator’s total farm costs.

*ASMC Report | Irrigation Prices in the Queensland Sugarcane Regions: an analysis of the community benefits and costs of improved irrigation pricing https://asmc.com.au/sugar-irrigation-cost-benefit/