Mackay sugarcane growers are hoping a swell of international pressure will force India to scrap its grower subsidies once the WTO hands down its decision.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he expected the second round of the global hearing to start by the end of February or early March.

It is understood the World Trade Organisation may take months to reach its final verdict against India, which Australia has accused of illegally breaching international trade rules.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Department's Ravi Kewalram said the Indian government had subsidised production by 109 per cent in 2018-19, far above the WTO limit of 10 per cent.

The chief trade law officer said there was no pleasure in having to take a "close friend" to court but the measures were hurting Australia's competitive global standing.

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri meeting with Dawson MP George Christensen and Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan at a shed talk on Tuesday. In the background are Canegrowers Mackay deputy chairman Anthony (Tony) Ross and Erakala sugarcane farmer Andre Camilleri. Picture: Heidi Petith
Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri meeting with Dawson MP George Christensen and Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan at a shed talk on Tuesday. In the background are Canegrowers Mackay deputy chairman Anthony (Tony) Ross and Erakala sugarcane farmer Andre Camilleri. Picture: Heidi Petith

Mr Tehan said India would react in one of two ways once round two was finalised - either it would accept the findings or launch an appeal.

"We've got to ultimately wait for the decision and then we'll assess," Mr Tehan said.

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri said farmers were relying on international pressure from the more than 20 countries in Australia's corner - including Canada, the United States and New Zealand - to force India's compliance.

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He said India's subsidies had caused an oversupply in the global market, slashing tonnage prices $7-10.

"That's tipping a large part of this industry from profitability to red ink," Mr Schembri said.

"Often farmers will say, 'Well where does this WTO process take us?' Well we've got nothing else.

"One of the great things about Australians is that we are ferocious terriers when it comes to getting a fair go and enforcing international rules."

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed
Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed

But if the WTO was to rule in Australia's favour, the Indian government could face obstacles weaning canefarmers off subsidies.

The country is already undergoing sweeping agricultural reforms that are being met with fierce opposition over the past month.

Aljazeera reported the resistance turned deadly on January 26 when thousands swarmed on the World-Heritage listed Red Ford in Delhi over agricultural reforms.

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The Hindustan Times reported subsidies totalled $477 million in December.

Mr Kewalram said India exported 4.7 million tonnes of sugar in 2018-19, compared to Australia's 3.8 million tonnes.


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