CANEGROWERS urges Senators of all parties to speak up and reaffirm their support for protections for family farmers and maintain the stability of a $2.5 billion export industry.
The Sugar Industry Code of Conduct, launched in April 2017, is in danger of being disallowed unless a motion introduced by NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm is withdrawn or voted down.
“We know there is wide support for the Code in Parliament,” CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri said. “It is a vital safety net for our sugarcane farming members and must not be stripped away.
“The Labor Party, Liberals, Nationals and Greens have already acknowledged the need for a Code through their roles in a Senate Committee investigation into arrangements for the marketing of Australian sugar.
“It was the sole recommendation in 2015 of the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee, chaired by WA ALP Senator Glenn Sterle, that a Code be developed and implemented for the sugar industry.
“We need all parties to reinforce their support and defeat Senator Leyonhjelm’s misinformed attempt to confuse the issue and put misguided ideology ahead of what is needed in the real world,” Mr Schembri said.
Distance and the perishable nature of cut cane means that growers have no choice but to supply their local mill, giving the mill owner a regional monopoly.
Requiring negotiations to be conducted in good faith with each party acting reasonably, fairly and honestly without intimidation, the Code prevents millers from abusing that monopoly power in supply contract negotiations with growers and their collectives and provides a mechanism for arbitration should there be a deadlock.
“The Sugar Industry Code of Conduct is something the parliament has dealt with and resolved through the Committee system,” Mr Schembri said.
“The parties involved supported the need for it and the Code was put in place in April 2017. We have moved on and are busy generating wealth for the Australian economy.
“We are about half-way through the 2017 sugarcane harvest which will see 32.5 million tonnes of cane cut and crushed into raw sugar with 80% of it to be exported.
“CANEGROWERS members have $11 billion invested in this industry and our farms underpin an export product that secures the prosperity of regional communities along 2,100 km of Australia’s east coast.
“As the only sugar industry in the world that operates without price supports or subsidies, and with grower incomes directly linked to export sales, we need the stability and confidence that the Code provides and so do the many businesses and jobs that rely on us, something the union movement is recognising.
“This Code doesn’t kick in until there is a problem – it is a safety net in a situation where one side of the negotiating table holds a lot more power than the other.
“We’ve written to Senator Leyonhjelm inviting him to Queensland to meet with growers to hear how important this Code is but, as yet, he has not made any contact with grower representatives while pursuing this disallowance motion.”
Despite it being the busiest time of the year for the sugarcane industry, CANEGROWERS representatives will be in Canberra to talk to Senators and remind them of their previous support for the Code.