Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine.
Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine. Peter Carruthers

Sugar industry will be in "chaos" without code

LOSING the Federal Government's sugar code of conduct would force the industry into "chaos", with growers across factions calling for the code to remain.

Cane growers and industry representatives, including Canegrowers Mackay, told a public hearing in Mackay yesterday that the sugar industry code of conduct provides right of choice in a playing field that is unequal.

The Federal Government brought in the code of conduct in April 2017 in a bid to resolve a long-running dispute affecting cane growers in North Queensland.

Paul Schembri, from Canegrowers Queensland, said the code has given growers confidence when making capital decisions and equalises the playing field.

"If this code is done away with this industry will descend into commercial chaos," he said.

"It will pale in significance if the code is done away with because a whole myriad of contractual agreements and other agreements...have been formed with the code in the background.

"All growers want is reasonable market power."

The Independent Bargaining Representative Group, a breakaway band of growers, recommended there be a log of bargaining representatives made available on the public record.

Growers agreed there was no way millers would agree to a voluntary code of conduct and the mandatory code prevents the steam-rolling of their rights.

"Why won't a miller afford their grower the right of choice...it's a democratic right," cane grower Serg Berardi, from Plane Creek, said.

"That's where the code of conduct sits, to me it's guaranteeing that right of choice."

A final report is expected to be delivered to the government by December 2018.