Cane farmers not sweet on new free trade deals

THE sugar industry has labelled the new Japan Free Trade Agreement a "kick in the guts"; saying cane farmers will gain no or little benefits from the new trade pact.

Bundaberg Canegrowers chair Allan Dingle said it was disappointing as they had hoped the agreement would have allowed for greater access into those markets.

"The agriculture industry needs more government support to make it profitable and competitive into the future," he said.

"When they barter to get the best for everyone unfortunately agriculture and sugar especially, sometimes comes out the poorer cousin."

The comments were backed by Canegrowers CEO Brendan Stewart and Australian Sugar Alliance chairman Paul Schembri.

"There is no improvement in market access for sugar, no improvement in terms of trade and no commercial gains for Australia's export-driven sugar industry, all which in today's international trade environment, should have been a sure thing," Mr Stewart said.

"This is yet another kick in the guts for Aussie cane growers."

Mr Schembri added it was hard to see how the agreement benefits either the Japanese importers or Australian raw sugar exporters.

But Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said no Free Trade Agreement would ever be a silver bullet for every single industry and that as a whole the region would benefit from the agreement.

"The Free Trade Agreement with Japan is a major win for Australian beef, horticulture, seafood and wine," he said.

"The Hinkler region is Australia's largest producer of heavy vegetables. As such, producers of a wide array of fruit and vegetables - such as macadamia nuts, strawberries, mangoes, tomatoes and pumpkins - will benefit from the elimination of tariffs."

The prime minister also signed an agreement with South Korea - Australia's biggest export market for sugar - eliminating tariffs on agricultural exports like sugar.

"The sugar industry was one of the main benefactors in the Korean Agreement," Mr Pitt said.

Topics:  cane farming horticulture

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