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Mayors back sugar industry role in COVID-19 recovery

2 September 2020 | The Australian Sugar Milling Council has welcomed local government leaders’ emphatic support for the role of the sugar industry in Queensland’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 global pandemic.

ASMC Chief Executive David Pietsch said Mayors, like the people they represent, know the importance of the sugar industry to their local communities and the broader COVID-19 recovery.

“Ahead of the State election, we are seeking a commitment from all parties to secure their support for the industry.  The best way to support the industry is to give the industry a fair go on the irrigation water prices set by the Queensland Government,” he said.

Burdekin Regional Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said:

“The sugar industry is the cornerstone industry of the Burdekin Shire Council; it has always been and I believe it will continue to be the cornerstone. It employs many people, with farm work but also with the harvesting, haul outs, and the sugar mills. Any changes or increases in production cost always has an effect on our community.”

Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson said:

“The Mackay region, this valley, produces over a third of Australia’s sugar and our farmers have been under attack consistently over the last decade, what with vegetation management laws, reef protection laws, electricity prices and now, water prices. The potential of water prices going up will have far reaching effect in our Valley, and on the 1,400 cane farmers, the families in our district who produce for this region around about 500 to 600 million dollars a year.”

Government froze irrigation water prices in May, but only for 2020/21. This followed 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.

The sugar industry says 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’s report ‘Irrigation Prices in the Queensland Sugarcane Regions: an analysis of the community benefits and costs of improved irrigation pricing’ available here https://asmc.com.au/sugar-irrigation-cost-benefit/