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Sugar and horticulture on agenda for Agriculture Minister's Qld visit.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Sugar and horticulture on agenda for Agriculture Minister's Qld visit

27 February 2008 DAFF08/015B

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke will tomorrow visit Far North Queensland to tour a sugar mill and meet with local horticulture producers.

The Minister will be joined by Member for Leichhardt Jim Turnour, ahead of a gathering of the nation’s agriculture ministers in Cairns on Friday.

They will tour the independent Mossman Central Mill, 75km north of Cairns, and meet its operators.

The mill began as a grower-owned cooperative in 1894 and is supplied by around 130 growers, covering 9,500 hectares in total cane production.

It currently crushes an average of around 800,000 tonnes of cane each year.

“I am looking forward to hearing from experts on the ground about the daily challenges they face,” Mr Burke said.

The Minister will also meet tomorrow with representatives from the region’s horticulture industry to discuss issues including difficulties in sourcing labour to harvest crops.

“Many farmers have spoken to me about the shortage of workers in agricultural industries,” Mr Burke said.

“The Rudd Government is focused on addressing that shortage and I will be keen to hear local producers’ ideas for assisting the industry into the long-term.”

On Friday, the Minister will attend a special Primary Industries Ministerial Forum in Cairns.

It will be the first time the state, territory and federal Primary Industries Ministers have met outside of a formal Ministerial Council and the first time they have met since the Federal Election.

Talks will focus on responding to climate change, improving drought policy, enhancing productivity and boosting market access for agricultural businesses.

“This is an opportunity to set the agenda for the priority issues we will tackle together this year,” Mr Burke said.

Media contact: Ann-Marie Wilcock - 0413 872 275