Farmers want a say
THE Australian Cane Farmers Association is calling for major changes to the sugar industry including restructure of the board of exporter Queensland Sugar whose $ 105 million 2010 season trading losses have set millers and growers at odds.
Chairman Don Murday said yesterday while cane farmers had a major stake in QSL, they had no say in its conduct as it was run by an independent four-member board.
‘‘ We want to see at least one grower and one miller representative on the company’s board,’’ he said. ‘‘ We also want QSL to operate its own pricing pool, so that growers have an alternative to pools run by millers.’’
Mr Murday, whose organisation has 700 grower members from NSW to Mossman, said the ACFA had fought to retain farmer directors of QSL, and therefore farmer oversight of its operations, when the organisation was restructured, but its voice was ignored.
‘‘ Also, when the sugar industry was deregulated, the ACFA opposed handing ownership of sugar to milling companies, a battle it also lost,’’ he said.
‘‘ The 2010 season experience vindicates its position and highlights the need for farmers to have a say in the handling of matters affecting their livelihood, which has been opaque at best, while some aspects have been totally hidden.’’
Mr Murday said QSL had no capacity to bear the wetweather-engendered 2010 season trading losses, which had to be handed to the industry.
There is now dispute between some millers and growers as t o how t he $ 105 million losses should be met and Sucrogen, which is to bear a $ 60.9 million cost, has called for farmers to contribute two-thirds, or more than $ 40 million.
It is understood that contract arrangements call for losses to be allocated across fixed-pricing platforms, although Sucrogen is urging that it be allocated across the shared pool, or total sugar tonnage.
Growers are angry about calls for them to stump up funds and legal action is under consideration.
Mr Murday said he believed there was potential for class action, with growers in some areas having a better case than others.
Mr Murday said ACFA planned to play a role on an industry working group being established by QSL to look at pricing, forecasting and risk management.
CHANGE: The Lucinda bulk sugar terminal transports raw sugar