Federal Shadow Minister for Agriculture John Cobb (left) and State Nationals MP for Clarence Steve Cansdell (centre) confer with NSW Cane Growers Association president Vince Castle on flood relief grants for NSW farmers.
Federal Shadow Minister for Agriculture John Cobb (left) and State Nationals MP for Clarence Steve Cansdell (centre) confer with NSW Cane Growers Association president Vince Castle on flood relief grants for NSW farmers. Jerad Williams

Cane growers expecting loss

SUGAR cane growers expect to lose 50 per cent of their crop next year following months of relentless wet weather.

Concerned growers and industry members met with Federal Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security John Cobb and Clarence MP Steve Cansdell yesterday at the Broadwater Sugar Mill to discuss their devastated crops.

Mr Cobb also visited the Casino Northern Co-Operative Meat Company and a private dairy farm in the region.

Tweed Cane Growers Association president Robert Quirk said at yesterday’s meeting that cane growers would still be feeling the effects of recent heavy rainfall in five years’ time.

“In 2012, and I’m not exaggerating, our industry will be down 50pc,” he said.

Fellow growers were concerned they were only eligible for a $15,000 clean-up assistance grant, while Queensland farmers are eligible for $25,000 under the Federal package.

Mr Cobb said while he sympathised with Queensland, the Government needed to realise farmers in NSW also had been severely affected.

“A major issue in NSW is the State Government and Federal Government only allocating $15,000 for farmers, whereas Queensland’s allocation has gone up from $15,000 to $25,000,” he said.

“I’m at a loss to understand why NSW farmers are in any less need than anyone else. Rain is the issue and floods are just a part of that.”

Mr Cobb also met with dairy farmers, who he said were frustrated with the big supermarkets’ price reductions for milk.

Coles and Woolworths have reduced the price of home-brand milk by up to one-third, which threatens the dairy industry, local farmers believe.

“We took the opportunity to visit an independent processing plant, which was apt because of the fact we think in the next 12 months this price-cutting war between Coles and Woolworths is going to impact on farmers,” Mr Cobb said.

“I have called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to look at this. One or both of them are pulling our chain if they can afford to knock a dollar, or 30pc, off their milk price.”

Mr Cobb said he was “going to push for the cane, cotton and wheat boys” who universally wanted an interest rate subsidy, which is granted if farmers are liable for exceptional circumstances assistance from the Federal Government.


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