MSF Sugar Maryborough Region Mill. Photograph by Maggie Zemek
MSF Sugar Maryborough Region Mill. Photograph by Maggie Zemek

UPDATE: Minister responds to push to rescue sugar industry

UPDATE, 5PM: Agriculture Minister Mark Furner has responded to a push from Burnett MP Stephen Bennett to provide funding to save the region's sugar industry.

The push for a rescue package comes after the closure of the Maryborough Sugar Factory was confirmed by MSF Sugar last week.

"The Palaszczuk Government has been a strong supporter of the sugar industry," Mr Furner said.

"Ultimately this is a decision made by a private company.

"First and foremost - companies should always ensure their workers and their farmers are looked-after in this process.

"Government cannot intervene in internal company decisions or decisions over what farmers decide to grow.

"I understand an agreement has been reached to process the region's cane over the next two years.

"Any proposals put forward over future options and requests, as a government we will consider them.

"We will continue to engage with industry on this, and many other matters, and I will continue to work with the members for Maryborough, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay on these issues."

EARLIER: On this state budget day, one MP is fighting for assurances on the future of the Wide Bay's sugar industry.

During Question Time on Tuesday, Burnett MP Stephen Bennett asked Agriculture Minister Mark Furner to provide funding to save Maryborough's sugar industry and prevent three mills in the Wide Bay from closing.

Mr Bennett's question follows the announcement last week that the Maryborough sugar mill would close.

"The industry has been crying out for funding from the State Government for the past 12 months now to invest in the necessary infrastructure to transfer cane from Maryborough to Isis for crushing, but their requests have fallen on deaf ears," he said.

"The clock is ticking and our growers need certainty to plan future crops and be assured that their cane won't be left to rot in the fields.

"We must ensure the Wide Bay continues to have a viable sugar industry to secure the future of jobs."

Mr Bennett said the Minister failed to provide a detailed response to the question in time, but it was clear that there was no money being set aside for a proposed rescue package to assist the industry.

"Labor's own Maryborough MP was on the radio recently claiming to be supportive of keeping the industry alive and the proposal to crush cane in Isis, yet the Minister still refuses to sign off on it," he said.

"Clearly Bruce Saunders doesn't have much pull within his own government."

The State Government has been approached for comment.