Hayden Johnson, 21 September 2015

PLANS to build an ethanol plant at Maryborough mill could be put on ice if the State Parliament passes new sugar marketing rules.

The bill will go on December 5.

The LNP’s Real Choice Marketing Bill is likely to go before the State Parliament in the next few months.

It will give growers the choice on where their sugar is marketed once the Maryborough Mill has crushed it.

Currently, the mill pays growers for the cane which it distributes as raw sugar and molasses.

MSF sugar chief executive officer Mike Barry said the proposed change would mean the mill would become only a processor, and would not have control over the raw product.

“It turns the mill into a toll processor,” he said.

“It would create uncertainty about investment.

“For us (the mill), it means we’d be re-evaluating our long-term position.”

Mr Barry said the Maryborough mill injects about $75 million into the heritage city’s economy annually.

He said plans to further invest in the Fraser Coast may be under threat.

“At the moment our vision includes larger scale co-generational projects and hopefully some sort of ethanol or bio-based product manufacturing.

“That would be quite a large investment.”

Mr Barry said Maryborough’s growers or the mill had not been consulted by the LNP, and the legislation would not be in the best interests of the Fraser Coast.

“It’s very poorly drafted and simply unworkable,” he said.

“We didn’t even hear about the bill until we read it in media releases.”

In some cane growing regions, growers and milling companies are in dispute over how sugar should be marketed.

But Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders said the relationship between Maryborough growers and the mill was a positive one, and the LNP’s bill would damage the mill.

“It doesn’t give the company certainty and it doesn’t give the company any control,” he said.

“Growers will have the opportunity to force the company to market the product wherever they want.”

Maryborough’s Canegrowers chairman Trevor Turner supported the LNP’s bill.

He disagreed with Mr Barry’s comments and said the bill would benefit growers by giving them more freedom with their product.

“We believe growers should have a choice of marketing,” he said.

Mr Saunders said about 700 people on the Fraser Coast relied on the Maryborough Mill.

The LNP’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture Deb Frecklington said the bill aimed to achieve “a workable solution to the sugar monopoly threatening regional growers”.

She said there had been extensive consultation.

Extracted in full from the Fraser Coast Chronicle.