Council General Rates

As advised in canenews edition dated 20 Dec, 2013 (on page 5) Burdekin Shire Council will soon commence the process to set their budget for Rates for 2014/15.

Council’s long term forecast (as published on page 24 in their Budget Meeting paper dated 9 July 2013) indicates that Council is forecasting an increase in General Rates by $1.4m for the coming year …this represents another 5.9% increase.  But even worse Council’s 5 year forecast is to increase General Rates by $6m from $23.6m pa to $29.7m pa a horrifying 26% increase.

We have facilitated a meeting with the other four collectives being Australian Cane Farmers Association, Pioneer Cane Growers Organisation, Kalamia Cane Growers Organisation and Invicta Cane Growers Organisation and we have all agreed to co-ordinate our efforts and unite on this important topic.

We are now waiting for the Council to confirm a meeting time.  We will keep growers informed of our progress in fighting for a fair deal on General Rates for all cane farmers in the Burdekin.

ACTION NEEDED: Become A Member of Sugar Research Australia Today

important that you know that you do not automatically become a member of SRA simply by paying the Sugarcane Levy.

Under corporation law you have to formally join as a Member. Membership of Sugar Research Australia is free to cane growers, but you must sign the membership form that you received in the mail from them recently, to continue to have a say in the direction of SRA.

If you need another SRA membership form, click here.

Membership of SRA is important so that growers continue to have their say and get directly involved in key aspects of the company to create a better future for the industry.

By growers joining SRA as members, it will ensure that the Australian sugarcane industry’s research and development is properly geared around the support of a strong cane growing sector.

CANEGROWERS strongly urges all growers to join.

 For more information about becoming an SRA member, you can visit the SRA website on or call Andrea Evers on 07 3331 3333 or email



The Annual General Meeting of Canegrowers Burdekin was held last Thursday night at Canegrowers Hall, Home Hill.

A full house received an update on performance for the past financial year together with a forecast of the financial results for the current year from Regional Manager, Debra Burden. 

Chairman Phil Marano provided an overview of efforts taken to reduce growers constantly increasing input costs mainly: 

Membership Levies:  Membership and Water Perils levies of 23 cents have been retained at the  same rate or lower since 2010

General Rates:  ongoing lobbying of the Burdekin Council to treat cane farmers fairly in regard to general rates.  Cane farms represents only 26% of the total land valuations in the region but cane farmers unfairly pay close to 50% of the general rates  

Insurance:  the introduction of the CANEGROWERS Insurance Broker service has saved many growers thousands of dollars in insurance premiums

Electricity:  Canegrowers have dedicated significant resources to lobby both the State and Federal Governments on the matter of the unsustainable increases in electricity prices.  For this year these efforts resulted in the State Government agreeing to a 10% increase in electricity pricing rather than the QCAs proposed 20% increase.  Worryingly indications are that the QCA may be proposing an increase of 27% for the 2014/15 year

Water:  as with Electricity, Canegrowers have dedicated significant resources to lobby the State Government in regard to fair treatment for all irrigators in the Burdekin 

Fertiliser:  Canegrowers implemented a “Retain Ravensdown in the Burdekin” campaign  

Phil spoke of the following additional activities that have kept Directors and Management occupied:

  •  initiating meetings with the other four Burdekin Collectives with the goal of leaving the politics aside and focusing on coordinating our efforts to reduce growers input costs.  Some support was gained in the areas of Ravensdown Fertiliser, insurance and Council general rates
  • revamping our communication and marketing to increase our profile both with members and the public.  This mainly included the ongoing upgrading of our weekly e-newsletter, now called canenews and the recent introduction of a facebook page, Twitter as an instant communication tool and our very own APP
  • unsuccessfully fighting to resurrect the Burdekin Agricultural College as NACETTA …the Northern Australia Centre for Excellence for Trade and Tropical Agriculture
  • successfully providing information and encouraging members to Vote and Vote Yes to establish Sugar Research Australia and in regard to the BSES asset transfer
  • successfully working with the CANEGROWERS Queensland Transport and Safety Committee to ensure the industry retained the right to transport cane bins uncovered
  • supporting the Burdekin Women in Sugar to host the WISA Annual Forum
  • finalising the constitution to allow for the establishment of  the new Burdekin Cane Auditing Services (BCAS).  It is anticipated that BCAS will be operational for the 2014 season
  • completing the Rural Water Use Efficiency Project  with  over $550k  allocated to over 30 projects
  • unsuccessfully endeavouring to introduce a Cane Contractors Association with the goal of strengthening this weak link in the supply chain
  • planning for the implementation of the new Smartcane BMP

Phil spoke of the reinstatement of Invicta Cane Growers Organisation Ltd (ICGO) as a collective/ representative body in competition to Canegrowers Burdekin by a break-away group led by former CANEGROWERS Qld Director and then Canegrowers Burdekin Deputy Chairman, Mr Mario Barbagallo.  Advising that not only did this incident result in the further splintering of the growers voice in the Burdekin (now five separate collectives) but the  financial impact on CBL of the loss  of the 70 members ( 850k tonnes) was significant,  reducing income by approximately $200k pa (20%) for future years.

Phil thanked long term directors Vince Papale and Gary Stockham both of whom did not seek re-election and welcomed our four new Directors being Steve Pilla, Roger Piva, Sib Torrisi and Arthur Woods.   Phil also thanked former Chairman, David Lando who took the opportunity to step back to the role of Deputy Chair. 

Phil advised attendees that on 15th August, 2013 we made a formal approach to Kalamia Cane Growers Organisation Ltd (KCGO) to merge. Saying our research indicated that a merger would provide real benefits to the members of both organisations by not only enhancing their own profitability and viability but also by improving the viability of the cane industry in the Burdekin. Financial modelling indicated that a merged entity may result in a reduction of membership fees of between 5 and 7 cents per tonne for members of both organisations and would provide a united voice which would represent approximately 4 million tonnes and 66% of all growers in the Burdekin.   The Board of KCGO declined our approach.

The two guest speakers for the night included the new Chair and the new CEO of CANEGROWERS Queensland, Mr Paul Schembri and Mr Brendan Stewart.  

Paul provided the meeting with an update on the work being undertaken by CANEGROWERS Queensland with particular focus on the benefit of unity and the doors this opens with Government, stating Government recognises that CANEGROWERS is the force in the cane industry, representing close to 80% of all cane farmers in the country. 

Paul also provided an overview of the work undertaken so far in regard to endeavouring to reach a sustainable solution with the Federal and the State Government on electricity pricing, plus the work being undertaken on free trade to rid the world of export subsidies to provide a level the playing field.  Paul spoke of the work undertaken to date to move towards growers having title to their two thirds of the raw sugar (Growers Economic Title)  as growers have a right to transparency and a say in marketing. 

New CEO, Brendan Stewart provided an overview of his farming background together with an overview of his time as CEO and Chair of the AWB, his time as Chair of the Grains Council of Australia and Vice President of the National Farmers Federation.   Brendan advised that his goal for his time with CANEGROWERS is to leave a legacy for the next generation of cane farmers  –  a legacy whereby CANEGROWERS Queensland is well resourced and well-structured to continue to take the fight up to Government.

Phil closed the meeting by stating “we remain optimistic about the future and moving towards our mission of becoming a truly effective, enduring and unifying force in maximising the profitability, productivity and sustainability of cane growers in the Burdekin, now and for the future.”

CANEGROWERS Chairman to Address Rural Press Club

CANEGROWERS Queensland Chairman Paul Schembri will be addressing the next rural press club meeting to he held Friday 18 October from 12pm at the United Service Club in Brisbane.

Paul will give his thoughts on how the industry will face challenges, and what the future holds for this well-established industry in an ever-changing world in this address titled “Five years from now:  Australian sugar’s sweet ride”.

For more information in the Rural Press Club click on the following link


Over the past week Burdekin CANEGROWERS Managers Debra Burden and Wayne Smith visited each mill’s laboratory to meet with the Work Place Coordinators who are in charge of cane auditing which is an essential component of the Cane Analysis Programme (CAP).

Cane Auditors are independent and are employed to carry out specific duties to overview all aspects related to the weighing, tracking, sampling and analysis required to determine the value of cane.

They also have the capacity to guide resolution of all matters in dispute relating to ownership and value of cane deliveries.

During the visit each Cane Auditor commented on season progress, areas that have been requiring significant or special attention and the actions that have been implemented to address a resolution of these.

One of the significant issues raised was the very high level of deficient consignment notes and the impact that this is having on auditors in carrying out their duties.

Just in cane fibre determination alone incorrect data on consignment notes can affect the fibre allocation being used in cane payment by:

1. Having incorrect varieties analysed in a fibre class which can result in cancelled fibre samples

2. If an incorrect fibre is identified and discarded then a smaller sample size is being applied to calculate the daily fibre allocation which then increases the variability in the result

3. Also consignment notes with no block and paddock data indicated are excluded from sample collection as the variety is unknown

4. As fibre allocations obtained are applied to every suppliers cane inaccuracies on consignment notes can then affect a large tonnage of cane

A suggestion that came up during the discussions to try and address incorrect block and paddock information was to investigate an online facility incorporated into the Grower Web where growers could indicate that the block, paddock, variety and class data on their field maps is correct.

Earlier this year CANEGROWERS engaged consultant Bernie Milford to undertake a review of the CAP which incorporated visits to the various mill sites to provide an audit of the analysis and audit systems to ensure that they are confirming to the agreements and to appropriate practice.

The review also looked at issues relating to cane analysis and audit and to prepare suggestions to deal with challenges that arise.  Mr Milford’s report is expected to be released next week.