This article originally appeared on the North Queensland Register on July 17th, 2017.

Tully Sugar will export its first shipment to China on Wednesday, since the signing of the new Growers Choice legislation.

Fourty-one thousand tonnes of sugar will depart the Mourilyan Harbour and arrive at a COFCO refinery in China, for the Chinese domestic market.

Tully Sugar general manager, Barry Dunn, said this was a significant milestone for Tully Sugar and parent company COFCO.

“It represents our fundamental change in the way the value chain for sugar is manage,” Mr Dunn said.

“There was a time previously at the mill where it was just loaded on a truck and sent away and someone else would look after it. Now we have a direct connection through to our customers and market a significant quantity of the sugar that is produced in the Tully region.”

Almost three years ago, Tully Sugar gave notice that it would leave the QSL single desk marketing arrangement. When COFCO purchased Tully Sugar back in 2011 it committed to stay within that arrangement for three years and in-turn stayed for six.

“But the time come where we thought we could do a better job and get a better return for growers and ourselves for marketing sugar by using our existing channels,” Mr Dunn said.

“And what ensued after that was a difficult battle across the Queensland sugar industry.”

Tully Sugar took a cooperative approach with growers and signed a cane supply contract in December 2016, well ahead of the rest of the industry.

“Growers, COFCO and Tully Sugar made significant concessions to reach agreements that we could move forward together with our growers in the region,” Mr Dunn said.

“As a result, Grower Choice was delivered and we are pleased that the vast majority of growers chose Tully Sugar and COFCO.

“As a result we have established a sugar marketing program which involved making the sale of the sugar, managing the stocks and arranging transport for growers.

“We had to do a great deal and set up a whole new range of systems and it has been a lot of work to get where we are today.”

The 2017-2019 Collective Cane Supply Contract gave Tully cane growers the ability to choose who would market and sell the sugar produced from the cane that they supply.

CANEGROWERS Manager Peter Lucy said the choice of Tully Sugar – COFCO or industry owned company QSL, had been exercised for the 2017 season, and it was pleasing that the first shipment is leaving for China on Wednesday.

Mr Lucy said that growers would be taking a keen interest in the final results from both marketers and value the choice provided in the Cane Supply Contract