Canegrowers Herbert River chairman Michael Pisano in Ingham. PIC: Morganne Kopittke
Canegrowers Herbert River chairman Michael Pisano in Ingham. PIC: Morganne Kopittke

Govt doesn’t sugarcoat warning to India

THE Federal Government's decision to take Indian to the World Trade Organisation should serve as a warning to others, Canegrowers Herbert River's chairman says.

India has been accused of flooding the global market with subsidised sugar, causing prices to artificially drop.

The Federal Government has lodged a Counter-Notification Notice with the WTO about the issue.

Michael Pisano, from Canegrowers Herbert River, welcomed the decision to take action.

"We made it known that they (the Indian Government) were acing outside the rules of trades," he said.

"It's going to take a while, these things do take some time.

"A few years ago we took action against the EU for doing something similar."

Mr Pisano said the last thing cane growers wanted was a trade war.

"But at least this will send a message to all countries that people are watching and do take action," he said.

In the Herbert River region, Mr Pisano said all sugar was exported, so growers were completely at the mercy of the global price.

"Anything that creates a glitch in that world market price is going to affect us hugely," he said.

"This is a message to all countries that we won't stand for.

"I'm very pleased that the Australian Government has listened to lobbying from Canegrowers and the Sugar Milling Council."

Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said by lodging the notification, Australia was saying this was a "serious issue of significant concern at the highest global level".

"While this notice does not resolve the problem of subsidised Indian product distorting the world sugar price, it takes the very real difficulties of Australian farmers into an international forum and places further pressure on the Indian Government to change its sugar policies," he said.

Mr Schembri said WTO rules allowed market price supports of up to 10 per cent of the total value of production.

He said Indian payments in recent years had been above 90 per cent.

"India's ongoing and blatant disregard of the rules is having serious implications for the world sugar market and the profitability of Australian growers who are totally exposed to the global sugar price," Mr Schembri said.

The matter will be considered during the WTO's Committee on Agriculture meeting scheduled for November 26-27.