Members of the Proserpine sugar industry are in support of the government's efforts to recover world sugar prices.
Members of the Proserpine sugar industry are in support of the government's efforts to recover world sugar prices. Peter Carruthers

Proserpine sugar industry backs action against India

MEMBERS of the Proserpine sugar industry are in support of the government's push for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel to action against what it claims are illegal Indian sugar subsidies.

Australia, Brazil and Guatemala lodged a joint request to the World Trade Organisation's Dispute Settlement Body to establish a WTO Panel to investigate and rule on whether India's high sugar cane prices and export subsidies exceed its WTO obligations.

Record levels of production in India have far exceeded their domestic consumption of sugar of 26 million tonnes per annum, since 2017.

The excess sugar production, aided by Indian Government subsidies, has been flooding the world sugar market, depressing world sugar prices below the cost of production.

Canegrowers Proserpine chairman Glenn Clarke said any push by the government in support of Australian sugar cane farmers was a positive move.

"The government should absolutely be going to the WTO and pushing for a fair world trade agreement," he said.

"This isn't something that is going to improve overnight but to see the government take action, is exactly what we need."

Sugar Research Australia Proserpine acting manager Frank Millar said a strong sugar price was beneficial for the region.

"Clearly low sugar prices are affecting the viability of all sugar cane in the district and consequently the businesses that rely on a strong sugar price," he said.

"Anything the government can do to increase the price of sugar, we support."

The bid for a WTO Panel comes after Brazil joined forces with Australia in February this year, lodging a formal complaint against India with the WTO, to no avail.

Mr Clarke said growers in Proserpine held hope for a price recovery in the coming seasons.

"Previous crushes have been pretty tough, we had two in a row here following Cyclone Debbie and then our second crop after that had depressed pricing which was disappointing for our farmers," he said.

"We're looking at a price of about $390 (per tonne this year) and what we really need is about mid $450's.

"We're price takers so all we can do is tighten our belts and try to grow the cheapest crop - hopefully pricing has bottomed out and we hopefully see a recovery in the coming year."