The February 28 price nomination date set by QSL has growers under pressure to secure income ahead of the 2017 crush, which is due to begin in 20 weeks time.
The February 28 price nomination date set by QSL has growers under pressure to secure income ahead of the 2017 crush, which is due to begin in 20 weeks time. Ray Matthews

Growers reluctantly hold out for QSL deal

LETHEBROOK cane grower John Casey is holding out for a deal to be struck between Wilmar and Queensland Sugar Limited.

But it's not easy.

"It's a a tough decision and in the back of my mind all the time,” he said.

The February 28 price nomination date set by QSL has growers under pressure to secure income ahead of the 2017 crush, which is due to begin in 20 weeks time.

"You have got the banks sitting there and saying 'have you priced yet, have you priced yet' and I have to say 'nah, I am hanging off for QSL' just to try and stay loyal to QSL,” Mr Casey said.

"How loyal do you have to stay before this thing comes to a head and they resolve it all?”

Two weeks ago, grower lobby group Canegrowers sought a three-way meeting with QSL and Wilmar Sugar after a draft determination by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission allowing for collective bargaining.

Proserpine Canegrowers manager Mike Porter said QSL had agreed to the sit-down but Wilmar had yet to agree to talks.

A Wilmar representative said it remained "focused on finalising a fair GEI Sugar Sales Agreement with QSL as soon as possible”, adding that the company had met with QSL four times in the past two weeks to negotiate.

"While progress has been made on some key points, we continue to work through a few outstanding issues,” the Wilmar representative said.

"In the meantime there is no reason for any grower to be without a cane supply agreement or access to forward pricing.”

Mr Porter echoed the sentiment expressed to growers by Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan last week that illustrated the human cost of the sugar marketing stalemate.

"Growers are torn,” he said.

"It's a major financial commitment they make around late February and they need to know with some certainty who is going to price their sugar and how they are going to market that and what price they achieve because of that.

"Growers would be very apprehensive right now.”

Mr Casey understood this apprehension and said if there was no resolution leading up to the price nomination date, as a grower he would "have to make a decision about what you are going to do”.

Mr Casey said his decision was made even more difficult by his membership on the Prosperine Canegrowers board.

The rising price of the ICE11 on the international commodity market has MrCasey asking himself should he be locking in a price now by signing a cane supply agreement with Wilmar Sugar.

"It's a hard decision to make,” he said.

"I know a lot of fellas have a lot of resentment towards QSL and towards Wilmar too.

"If nothing is resolved by (the price nomination date), are they going to make a decision to extend that date or what? Someone has to do something,” he said.

"It's bloody hard but we will find out more after the QSL meeting.”

QSL bosses are touring northern sugar regions to explain pricing options for MSF and Tully growers, and also to keep Wilmar growers abreast of developments in the OSA negotiations.

They will meet at the Proserpine Community Centre at 10.30am today.