How sweet it is

By ADRIAN MILLER

CLARENCE cane growers are set to get a price boost for sugar which may end 20 lean years of production.

The Australian Bureau for Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) predicts world sugar prices will rise by 16 per cent over the next year.

The price yield has the potential to lift Clarence income but growers have delayed a celebration. The NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative confirmed yesterday the increase would not be passed onto farmers until June at the earliest.

Clarence Canegrowers' Association president Vince Castle said farmers were pleased with the price rise but disappointed they would not see it flow on earlier.

"There are some good signals coming through to the local industry and good news for local farmers," he said.

"But I think growers are very disappointed there hasn't been some remuneration as early as March, but if that's not going to take place, we'll just have to settle for June.

"The good thing to come from that is probably all of our crops for next year will attract a much better price and we can look forward to that."

NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative chief executive officer Greg Messiter said payments would take time.

"Our cane payments are spread over 12 months, with a part-payment on delivery to the mill, then a series of interim monthly payments, through to a final payment, which occurs about August the following year," he said.

"The average price we receive is then passed on to members through a fixed formula based on sugar content of cane.

"We have given members a schedule of payments through to June, but at this stage we can't predict what the additional final price will be, but we have given them a likely range."

The ABARE hopes the world price for sugar will jump to roughly 12.2US cents per pound for 2005/06. This would be up from 7.9US cents two years ago.



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