EXCLUSIVE: Relief for farmers with $18M for canegrowers
CANEGROWERS across the Wide Bay are set to get a sweet surprise after years of drought and water shortages.
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien will today announce $18million to fund the construction of a 6000 mega-litre off-stream water storage project at Glendorf near Maryborough.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will join Mr O'Brien in Maryborough for the announcement.
The project is expected to provide welcome relief to cane farmers and employees at the Maryborough sugar mill, who have continually called for support after ongoing dry spells and lack of rain.
Mr O'Brien said the project was "absolutely essential" to the survival of Maryborough's sugar industry.
"This really is a watershed moment in the history of cane farming in Maryborough," Mr O'Brien said.
"You can't grow sugar without water, and without a secure water supply cane farmers, their employees and contractors, and the jobs of everyone employed at Marybor- ough's iconic Maryborough sugar mill were all at risk.
"Sugar is a key driver of Maryborough's economy and provides employment for 600 people.
"Farmers, planters, harvesters, transporters and MSF Sugar employees all rely on a viable cane crop and this project secures that crop and secures these jobs."
The announcement comes after a drawn-out dry spell across the Fraser Coast and Wide Bay regions over the past few months.
Water security has long been an issue for Maryborough farmers as cane crushes continue to dwindle and drought conditions worsen.
MSF Sugar generates about $45million of economic activity in the Wide Bay region.
Mr O'Brien told the Chronicle he had been meeting with MSF Sugar and Canegrowers Maryborough for some time to find a reliable source of water for cane farmers in the region.
"MSF Sugar has made its operations as lean and efficient as possible to sustain Maryborough's sugar industry, but in spite of their great efforts, the time to make some very tough decisions was fast approaching," he said.
"It's impossible to think of Maryborough without a sugar cane industry but I fear that's the future we were facing without this funding."
Mr McCormack said he was keen to see the economic benefits the announcement would generate for cane farmers.