INDIA’S decision to subsidise cane growers in the country, potentially flooding the market with cheap sugar amid already catastrophic low prices, has been slammed by growers in the north.
While growers were bracing for the move, which has already contributed to a slump in world sugar prices, they said the news was disappointing.
Burdekin Canegrowers chair Phil Marano said the Indian subsidies had been flagged for some time and had already depressed the world sugar price.
He said it was hard to tell how much further the price would plummet now the subsidies were official.
“The subsidy thing with India has been going on for a while now and it’s pretty bad,” Mr Marano said.
“We believe it’s against World Trade Organisation rules and we’re calling on the Australian government and other cane growing countries to take India on at the WTO.”
Mr Marano queried whether India had the means to export bulk sugar to the world market.
“India has always had a problem shipping on to the world market, their infrastructure and ports aren’t the best, so it would be difficult to move that amount of sugar.
“If the sugar makes it to the world market at a subsidised rate, it’s going to be a disaster.”
Herbert River Canegrowers chair Michael Pisano said he expected the Australian government and other growing nations would successfully appeal the move with the World Trade Organisation.
“Just the fact they were thinking of doing it was driving the price of sugar down, hopefully it will not drop off a cliff now,” Mr Pisano said.
Mr Pisano said Australia successfully led a challenge with other growing nations to the WTO when subsidies were introduced by the European Union over a decade ago.
“Over the next couple of years the EU agreed to cut subsidies and it was a huge saving to the rest of the world,” he said.
“There is a precedent with cooperating and taking on these bad trade practices and I don’t see any reason why it won’t happen again.”
Mr Pisano said while any challenge would take time, it was vital to secure the future of the sugar industry.
“It will take a long time, it won’t happen over night, but what we are doing is for the future.
“If you don’t fight, other countries might start using these practices and then it gets out of hand.
“We don’t have a short term solution, but if we are successful with the WTO it will be a huge benefit in the long term.”