AUSTRALIA'S sugarcane industry is looking down the barrel of severe hikes in the cost of farming, following the federal government's decision to severely restrict use of the vital weed-management tool diuron.
After a 10-year process, the government's Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Authority (APVMA) handed down its final decision of what, up until now, has been the best tool to control weeds.
Excessive growth of weeds in sugarcane severely chokes productivity which means a lot less income for growers, says Canegrowers.
The peak group has made it clear that the announcement is hugely disappointing and is a costly outcome for cane growers who have completely overhauled their practices to the point they are now recognised worldwide for their cutting edge technology and as being the most sustainable in the world.
"This decision has not taken into account that Australia has well-informed, responsible farmers who make responsible decisions on the use of chemicals on their farms," CEO Steve Greenwood said.
He says farmers and researchers continuously work to ensure that there is no risk to the environment, and are always seeking out new technology and practices to achieve just that.
"This decision is another in a mounting list to rip at the very profitability of growing cane."
The organisation says the restrictions to when diuron can be used make the product next to useless for sugarcane growers, whose only other alternative comes at a shocking four times the cost.
"That is money straight off our growers' bottom line.
"To be candid, it is out of reach for many growers who can ill afford to shoulder another hike in the cost of growing cane, in light of spiralling hikes in water and electricity resulting from the introduction of the Australian Government's carbon tax.
"This is a very disappointing result, as the organisation has put in an immense effort to represent the interests of sugarcane growers.
"The organisation has employed scientific experts, surveyed growers and worked closely with an extensive range of industry stakeholders and government officials.
"But at the end of the day, the government has effectively banned the use of diuron across the whole Australian sugar industry, based on just two studies in one region.
"Growers in other regions of Australia have every right to question how government could limit the use of diuron based upon studies that were done many hundreds of kilometres away.
"It is a well-known fact that the areas in which cane is grown are climatically and geographically diverse."
Canegrowers says it is very clear that more research needs to be done in each of the major sugarcane-growing districts to accurately determine the actual effect of diuron use.
"We call on the Australian government to carry these out in the earliest possible time.
"If the government is serious about supporting the sugar industry and the many reg- ional communities it underpins, it will kick this work off in the next few months."