Bitter sugar taste
NORTHERN Rivers canegrowers may have to pay 66% more for research and development if a proposed reorganisation of the industry becomes reality.
More than 100 local canegrowers met representatives of the Queensland industry in Ballina last week to learn more about a plan to restructure the research and development capabilities of the industry.
Under the plan, the Queensland-based BSES, the principal industry-funded research organisation, will be merged with the Federal Government's Sugar Research and Development Corporation to form a single entity - Sugar Research Australia.
The reforms were needed because the BSES was no longer viable under the funding arrangements, NSW Cane Growers Association president Vince Castle said. The problems can be attributed to Queensland's sugar crop dropp
ing from about 40 million tonnes a year to 28 million tonnes, he said.
If successful the reforms will involve increasing the levy paid by NSW growers from $0.22 a tonne to something like $0.37 a tonne, although the figure hasn't been finalised.
The new levy would be in line with what other industries pay and with rates paid by sugar growers overseas, he said.
"It is important that SRA is viable into the future," he said. "The changes will introduce new people into the organisation and better research results."
Broadwater-based cane grower John Sykes said the organisational changes would make things simpler and could increase benefits to more growers. Mr Sykes was a dairy farmer when amalgamation occurred in that industry and it did improve things, he said.
But the reforms are still a long way from being finalised.
They need to be endorsed by the representative bodies for the Queensland and NSW growers, and then the reforms will be put to a vote of all members of the industry later in the year.
If this is successful the federal Agriculture Minister still has to agree to the merger, Mr Castle said. "Some local growers are concerned that everything will suit Queensland growers," he said.