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Trade and investment a sugar success story

The Queensland regional economy and the Australian raw sugar industry have been major beneficiaries of more than $7 billion worth of investment over the past 15 years.

Giving evidence at the virtual Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth (14 July), the Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) explained the importance of exports to the sugar milling sector, which account for more than 75% of its $2 billion annual revenues.

During a period of uncertainty due to the Coronavirus pandemic and with increasingly mobile capital and the growing trend of trade protectionism, ASMC emphasised the imperative for Australia to continue to encourage foreign investment and diversify trade access to overseas markets.

“Australian raw sugar is predominantly exported to South Korea, Japan and Indonesia and in all three markets we benefit from bilateral trade agreements,” said David Pietsch, ASMC’s CEO.

These three markets purchased 84% of the sector’s exports in 2018 compared with 49% of the total in 1998.

“To maximise the opportunities to further grow our markets and minimise the risks of concentration, we highlighted to Committee members the ongoing importance of rules-based trade and negotiating preferential access deals around the globe.

“We also outlined the numerous socio-economic benefits the industry and associated regional communities have experienced as a result of significant investments and commitments made by new sugar mill owners over the past 15 years,” added Mr Pietsch.

The raw sugar industry – including milling companies and cane growers – is responsible for $4 billion in economic activity per annum, and underpins 23,000 jobs in regional Queensland.

18 of Australia’s 24 operating sugar mills are fully, or majority foreign-owned and the industry has been the beneficiary of more than $7 billion injection, including capital, following a prolonged period of under investment.

“We can only speak from our industry’s direct experience and that shows how foreign investment provided a much needed lifeline for the sugar industry following a period of low global sugar prices,” said Mr Pietsch.

ASMC’s written submission can be viewed here