Emma Gough

Planned farm in QLD threatens to affect world prices

A $2 billion farming operation proposed for north Queensland could pump so much new sugar and beef into the international market that it risks dragging down world prices.

Agricultural groups however are hopeful that increasing demand from Asia will offset any risks to global prices.

The Queensland Government wants feedback on the Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project.

The $1.98 billion project will use 65,000 hectares for sugar and other crops, 241,000 hectares for grazing land and develop a sugar mill capable of processing 4.8 million tonnes of cane.

A 200,000-head meat processor, bio-diesel plant and power plant are also on the cards.

It is to be developed 78km from Georgetown, west of Cairns.

If the project goes ahead, it will create 1780 jobs during construction and more than 1000 once operations begin.

Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said the proposal was an endorsement in Queensland's sugar industry.

He said with world demand growing by "the size of the Queensland sugar industry" each year, the impact on international prices should be minor.

Mr Schembri said there was still a lot of work to be done before the project could go ahead.

"I would note that it's a huge capital investment from basically what we term a greenfields (undeveloped) site," he said.

"Obviously there will be risks involved in that."

AgForce Queensland too expects new meat supplies will be taken up by new demand.

Policy general manager Lauren Hewitt said while AgForce would not be making a submission to government about the project, she encouraged graziers and growers to raise their concerns.

Feedback and more information on the project is available at http://www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/etheridgeproject until February 10.

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