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Australian Government to help Queensland citrus growers.

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DAFF05/023WT - 11 February 2005

Australian Government to help Queensland citrus growers

Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss today announced an Australian Government package of assistance for the Queensland citrus industry.

Citrus growers and nurseries throughout the State have been affected by the discovery last year of citrus canker on two farms in the Emerald Quarantine Area, and the subsequent control and eradication program.

"The Australian Government will provide to eligible farmers an assistance package including:

● grants of up to $100,000 per grower per year for two years to help

producers pay the interest on their new and existing loans; (at a rate of 50 per cent or five percentage points of interest, whichever is the lower) ● 24 months of fortnightly income support payments equivalent to the

Newstart Allowance to meet household bills; and ● assistance to help recapture lost markets."

The Australian Government's announcement follows the collapse of negotiations with the Queensland Government on a joint package of assistance to the State's citrus producers.

The joint package was to include contributions of $1.5 million each from the Queensland and Australian Governments, with the Queensland Government providing grants to Emerald district growers to assist with orchard management costs. This week, Premier Beattie unilaterally announced that the State government would only offer loans to growers.

Mr Truss said the assistance package would be available to all citrus producers in the Emerald Quarantine Area and to other farmers and nurseries in Queensland which could demonstrate a 30 per cent downturn in their income as a result of the canker outbreak or control measures.

Mr Truss said he remained very disappointed that, once again, the Beattie Government has walked away from farmers in need.

"In spite of the Beattie Government's cruel disregard for rural Queensland, the Australian Government will continue to do its share and not let farmers down.

"Perhaps it is hoping too much that the Australian Government's response might embarrass the Beattie Government into doing the right thing.

"It is worth noting that the Beattie Government is bearing just 8 per cent ($1.2m) of the cost of the canker control and eradication operation even though the exercise is being managed by the State government under State laws. The balance of the cost is being met by the Australian Government (50 per cent - $5.5m) and the other citrus producing States.

"I am appalled that with the Australian Government and other states doing all of the heavy lifting, the Beattie Government is still too mean to provide practical help to the state's farmers."

Citrus growers and nurseries should call 1800 050 585 to enquire about assistance.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433

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