Farmers and consumers alike are facing a $1.5 billion loss from imports of cane sugar, the Australian Agriculture Minister has announced.
Key points:A$1 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the current cropThe Australian Sugar Council said cane sugar production would remain at the current levels for years to comeThe ABC’s Mark Kelly reports on the crisisThe Department of Agriculture says sugar imports will remain stable and the industry has a strong track record.
“The bulk of the cane sugar supply is from a handful of producers in Western Australia, including the producers who are in dispute with the Queensland Government,” Agriculture Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Friday.
“It is our view that there is a strong business case for maintaining current levels of supply.”
The ABC has learned that the current supply is about $500 million per year.
The Australian Grain Council, a trade body representing sugar producers, said the current cane supply was “very low”, with only about 30 per cent of cane growing being used for sugar.
“We have been monitoring sugar imports and our advice is that they should stay at the low level,” said the group’s managing director, David Wills.
“They are not a sustainable export.”
The Government is set to sign a trade deal with China on Friday, in which China will allow exports of sugar to Australia.
But the trade agreement, known as the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), has been under review by the Senate.
The Government has been working to negotiate a trade agreement with China, which would also include the export of sugar from Australia.ABC Fact Check has also been unable to contact any of the producers affected by the dispute.
The Queensland Government has said it will continue to import cane sugar from overseas as it has been doing for years.
The ABC understands the state is currently importing about 2 million tonnes of cane a year.
“Cane sugar is a very valuable crop,” Queensland Agriculture Minister Simon Corbell said.
“But we also know that the state will be importing some of the highest sugar prices in the world.”
The Queensland sugar industry has been hit hard by the cane crisis.
Mr Corbell says the industry’s overall profitability has been hurt by the supply crisis.
“With sugar prices so high, it is difficult to generate the capital to invest in the production of cane,” he said.
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