ALL is not what it seems in an announcement made by the Queensland Government on water rebates, according to sugarcane group Canegrowers.
The Queensland Government released a statement saying relief was on the way for irrigators affected by price hikes, announcing a rebate for the Mareeba-Dimbulah re-lift, Bundaberg and Lower Mary channel irrigation schemes to ensure water bill increases for 2012/13 are capped to CPI plus $2/megalitre.
According to the government's statement, the rebate only relates to 2012-2013 water usage and next year's prices would continue to be based on QCA recommendations - which Canegrowers says are untenable and will send growers broke.
Canegrowers chairman Alf Cristaudo said while cane growers appreciate the announced rebate for 2012/13, it doesn't solve the problem of extremely high water pricing for this year and every year going forward in the price path.
"While the water usage for 2012/13 has been a low usage year, so the rebate would be smaller than it would have been in any other year, every little bit helps, and irrigators in those schemes will appreciate the gesture," Mr Cristaudo said.
"But under this small concession is a wolf that will rip at the heart of viability of farmers across Queensland."
He was referring to the extreme proposed price hikes to two of the biggest costs to farming - both water and electricity.
Canegrowers says hundreds of farmers say they could be forced to sell out if these increases are implemented.
"It will hit irrigated farmers hardest.
"Not only will the astronomical price hikes to water hit hard, but the electricity to pump the water is also a major cost for irrigated farmers, and there are 17.5 per cent proposed increases - not just this year, but similar increases projected every year for the next seven years.
"Seventy percent of sugarcane farms rely on irrigation, so it is no wonder these hikes have growers worried for their livelihoods."
Canegrowers says the media release was dressed up to look like a huge win, while in fact it masks a continuation of huge price hikes.
"The statement makes a mockery of the viability of our farmers.
"On the one hand they are talking about doubling the value of agricultural production at the farm gate by 2040; on the other, they are talking about huge increases on two major input costs, which flies in the face of increasing production.
"The Australian sugarcane industry has been undergoing a resurgence and is primed to help the government achieve its target of doubling agriculture by 2040, but with untenable price hikes, the opportunity to expand is being curtailed.
"The extreme price hikes being proposed for water and electricity will destroy irrigated agriculture in Queensland, leaving the fourth pillar of the state's economy dead in the already overpriced water."
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