Wilmar and QSL have been given 48 hours to settle their dispute.
Wilmar and QSL have been given 48 hours to settle their dispute. Peter Carruthers

Deadline looms in QSL, Wilmar stoush

STATE opposition leader Tim Nicholls has given Wilmar Sugar and Queensland Sugar Limited 48 hours to promise to settle their dispute by February 28.

The Liberal National Party leader said his party would act to change the Sugar Industry Act to make arbitration compulsory.

Legislation was passed in 2015 which allowed growers choice in how their sugar was marketed but that meant an on-supply agreement had to be created between the two companies for QSL to market the sugar even after Wilmar had milled it.

However, negotiations hit an impasse in late August when Wilmar claimed QSL walked away from the negotiation table and QSL said Wilmar did not inform the company of its "apparent intention to cease negotiations".

Since then Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen has criticised Wilmar for turning cane growers "into peasants" blaming the Singaporean-based company from blocking cane growers from the current high sugar prices.

Wilmar responded by blaming QSL for not accepting reasonable terms for the purchase of Wilmar sugar.

On Tuesday the Queensland Liberal National Party announced it would give Wilmar and QSL 48 hours to agree to resolve their long-running dispute by February 28.

LNP leader Tim Nicholls said the impasse was detrimental to up to 1500 growers in North Queensland cane growing districts.

"If Wilmar Sugar and Queensland Sugar Ltd can't agree or don't resolve the dispute by February 28, the LNP will act and amend the Sugar Industry Act," Mr Nicholls said.

"Everyone in the industry is sick to death to this and it needs to end. Both parties need to grow up, bury their egos and sort this out, otherwise growers will lose out.

"Wilmar and QSL need to provide an iron-clad guarantee within 48 hours that negotiations will be finalised for supply and on-supply agreements by February 28.

"If not, then the LNP will introduce amendments to State Parliament compelling millers and marketers to go into arbitration.

"The LNP is serious about this issue. Drafting instructions have already been given to parliamentary counsel and we'll be speaking with Wilmar, QSL, Canegrowers and the Australian Sugar Milling Council today and giving them a very clear message - get a deal done.

Shadow Assistant Minister for North Queensland Jason Costigan called on Labor, KAP and independent MPs to stop playing silly political games.

"Time has run out and a practical solution is needed to allow canegrowers to lock into high world sugar prices for the 2017 season," he said.

"We have waited for the Federal Government to introduce a code of conduct but that hasn't happened.

"The LNP has decided to act decisively and put Wilamr and QSL on notice - this dispute has gone on for too long, enough is enough."



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