RESETTING irrigation prices to match growers' capacity to pay could boost revenue for sugar reliant communities by more than $220 million over the next four years.
That's according to the Australian Sugar Milling Council, which is set to release a detailed assessment next week of the impact of the proposed Queensland Competition Authority price increases on water charges for irrigators for 2020-24.
ASMC chief executive officer David Pietsch said the results of the major social, economic and environmental study showed communities reliant on sugar production stand to benefit enormously from water prices that are more affordable.
Water costs have increased relentlessly, year on year.
"Water costs have increased relentlessly, year on year," Mr Pietsch said.
"The projected additional costs are unsustainable and left unchecked, will result in further decline of the Queensland sugarcane crop and financial stress for many sugar mills."
ASMC director of economics, policy and trade, David Rynne, said ever increasing water bills, payable outside cane payment periods, detered growers from irrigating, especially when global sugar prices were low.
"When growers have confidence to irrigate at the right time in the crop cycle, everyone gains because fast growing cane takes up more fertiliser, better competes against weeds, and the increase in crop yield improves mill efficiency and sustainability," Mr Rynne said.