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B2004/20 - FTA leaves sugar in poll position for support

Nationals Senate Leader, Ron Boswell admitted today that a US FTA without increased market access for sugar was a bitter pill for the industry to swallow, but said it would leave growers in a much stronger position to negotiate on government assistance to move the industry forward.
“It is important to remember that the US FTA as negotiated does not leave our sugar industry any worse off,” Senator Boswell said.

“We have managed to hold on to international single desk selling arrangements for sugar, rice, wheat and barley as part of the agreement.”

“In all of the sugar regions there are other rural industries – fishing, fruit-growing, beef and dairying - and Government has a responsibility to these industries too, so we must support this FTA and the benefits it will bring.”

“Sugar growers have devised a plan which focuses on increased access to world markets, a new ethanol industry, and diversification into other sugar-based industries, so there are still avenues open to bring the industry back to prosperity.”

“The US stubbornness on access for sugar could put sugar growers, with government support, in poll position to establish a sugar ethanol industry in Queensland and to get into industries like electricity cogeneration and bioplastics.”

“There is an opportunity here and we must grab it with both hands and become world leaders in sugar diversification and innovation.”

“I can well understand the disappointment among growers over the FTA, but I have spoken personally to the Prime Minister and Treasurer and I have addressed the joint party room to make sure the Australian Government knows the sugar industry can’t be left behind.”

“I have explained that encouraging sugar growers to leave the industry will only exacerbate the problem as there are large towns like Mossman, Sarina and Proserpine where the mill is the life-support system for the community.”

“I am determined that the sugar industry will not be left behind and will be working with growers toward a package to encourage new, world-class industries to grow around sugar, with an exit package only for those who want it,” Senator Boswell said.

ENDS

Media Contact - Paul Leven 02 6277 3244