Federal grant delivers sweet relief to farmers
THE region's 500 cane growers are expected to benefit from $4.15m of Federal Government grant money aimed at improving freight and logistics at Harwood Mill and Refinery.
Stage one of the project involves building a finished-goods warehouse, silo storage and restructure packaging lines at the refinery totalling $8.2m.
This will be part of an overall $16m project which will see efficiency changes made across the local sugar business to help sustainability and jobs growth.
Sunshine Sugar Chairman Ian Causley said the funding announcement, made last week, would help relieve pressure on the north coast sugar industry.
"The problems we have is that we're the only Australian-owned miller and refiner left in Australia," he said.
"All of the rest of the industry, 75%, if foreign owned and they're making life fairly difficult at the present time and so we have to find efficiencies and this will give us efficiencies so that we can continue to compete.
"It (the grant) will give us new jobs and protect the thousands of jobs that we already have in the industry as well.
"On innovation we're also looking at using other products. At present we have cane, which produces fibre and also sugar, but you can use sugar for other things and we're looking at that to expand the products we sell."
In making the funding announcement, Page MP Kevin Hogan said the money would improve the company's freight and logistics network, helping them stay competitive against overseas companies.
Harwood Mill and Refinery employs more than 2000 people directly and indirectly.
Other project that received funding were the redevelopment of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange in Casino ,$3.5m, the reconstruction of the Ballina Marine Tower, $850,000, the creation of the Lismore Quadrangle, including a new Northern Rivers Regional Gallery, $2.85m and road work to unlock the economic and tourist value of Toonumbar Dam, $1m.