Growers closer to pay day

THE Clarence Valley's sugar growers and millers waiting on a second payment from Federal Government's Sustainability Grant should receive it in April.

That was the expectation of Canegrowers chairman Alf Cristaudo following his trip to Canberra last week to discuss the progress of restructuring and reform in the sugar industry.

Federal agriculture minister Warren Truss deferred the second tranche of a $73 million sustainability grant to growers and millers in February amid claims that the industry had failed to submit satisfactory blueprints for reform.

Yesterday, Mr Christaudo said a document detailing reform and restructure initiatives for the sugar industry that was circulated by Canegrowers in Canberra last week did enough to show the government that the industry was in fact on target.

He said reform and restructure plans from regional advisory groups had been received and would undergo a two-week review beginning on March 24.

Mr Christaudo said the assessment by the Industry Oversight Group (IOG), of which he is a member, was expected to take about two weeks.

"Once it's finalised the assessments (of the region- al advisory groups' plans) will go to minister Truss and then it will be entirely up to the government to determine if and when they pay that sustainability payment," he said.

"Once these plans get signed off then it's up to the government to agree and say 'yes, we'll make the payments' and the timing of it is, of course, entirely in their hands."

Mr Christaudo said any failure by the federal government to make the payment following the IOG's approval would be seen as a contradiction of the criteria it established to allow the payments under the Sugar Industry Reform Package.

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