Parties must offer sweetener

Canegrowers demand action ahead of state election

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Canegrowers chair Paul Schembri is laying down the challenge for political parties to embrace agriculture ahead of the October 31 state election.

Canegrowers chair Paul Schembri is laying down the challenge for political parties to embrace agriculture ahead of the October 31 state election.

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Vision and zeal in government policy is required for Queensland's billion dollar sugar industry to reach its full potential.

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VISION and zeal in government policy is required for Queensland's billion dollar sugar industry to reach its full potential.

The industry's peak lobby group Canegrowers is calling on the next state government to deliver reforms that will allow the industry to prosper.

Canegrowers chair Paul Schembri said great opportunities existed for the industry to expand from raw sugar production, to areas including bio-fuel and renewable energy.

He said a prosperous sugar industry was vital to vibrant and resilient regional communities.

"For every $1 spent growing sugar cane, it creates a further $6.42 in regional economic activity," Mr Schembri said.

"We're putting the challenge out to political parties contesting this election to put forward more policies for the agricultural industry to reach its full potential and in turn lead to more vibrant and resilient regional communities.

"They need to be proactive with policy making, and not deliver policies that are handbrakes to sugar and agriculture.

"This is a great opportunity to allow us to grow to our full potential.

"We've been based on an exclusive, single product and sugar has served us well, but there are huge opportunities for the sugar industry to create further income streams."

Mr Schembri said the industry was at the mercy of a volatile world market price.

"We need to be more resilient, we need to have other strings in our bow," he said.

"We're growing 30 million tonnes of cane, right beside ports... we need that vision and zeal of government policy to get us there."

We need to be more resilient, we need to have other strings in our bow. - Paul Schembri

Mr Schembri said he wanted to see serious policy offerings from political parties that were tangible and could grow agriculture.

Canegrowers laid down the challenge to parties contesting the state election, releasing an eight-point plan to secure a sustainable, profitable and productive future for sugar cane growers, regional communities and the state economy.

Central to their plan is reducing the cost of water and electricity so the industry could remain internationally competitive.

They are also calling for controversial reef regulations to be revamped, which as it stands Mr Schembri said is set to cost the Queensland economy $1.3 billion over ten years.

Other points include investing in a future agricultural workforce with school programs and post-school skills training, revitalise the Department of Agriculture, and removing roadblocks to disaster preparedness including making insurance more affordable.

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