Sugar industry farewells a true gentleman leader

Sugar industry farewells a true gentleman leader
January 11 2021

Queensland’s sugarcane industry is mourning a man who led growers through one of the most turbulent periods in its history.

Fred Soper, a grower in the Marian region near Mackay, was the Queensland CANEGROWERS organisation Chairman from 1982 – 1989. He died peacefully at Mirani on Friday night aged 86.

Current CANEGROWERS Chairman, Paul Schembri, who is also from Mackay, said Mr Soper was a true gentleman who worked for the greater good of growers and the sugar industry in difficult times.

“The 1980s were characterised by historically low sugar prices and the start of a period of deregulation for the industry,” Mr Schembri said. “At one point, sugar prices collapsed to as low as 2.5c/lb (US) which was devastating for Queensland’s cane growers. By contrast prices today are at 15.6c/lb (US).

“At the same time, after decades of stability, the structures and rules under which the industry had operated were being stripped away and altered in a process of deregulation, with the most notable being the end of the sugar import embargo.”

Fred Soper began his career representing fellow growers when he was elected to Marian Mill Suppliers Committee in 1964, he served as Chairman of CANEGROWERS Mackay from 1979 – 1989 and in 1982 became one of the youngest men to lead the organisation at the state level.

“Mr Soper served growers with a fierce dedication,” Mr Schembri said. “One year he was away from his farm on CANEGROWERS business for 276 nights!

“He gave a 100 per cent commitment to the welfare of growers and was a true gentleman in the way he conducted himself.

“His work carried him to the national and international stage. He attended the first ever world sugar growers congress in Mexico in 1981 before becoming president of the World Association of Beet and Canegrowers in 1987.”

Mr Soper is survived by his wife Nola, four children, 11 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.