New program a boost for canegrowers

Friday December 13th 2013

New program a boost for canegrowers

A new program that sugarcane growers will voluntarily become part of to prove that they are world-class farmers, was formally launched by the Queensland Government and CANEGROWERS last.

The Australian Cane Farmers Association, was also there supporting the launch. The government has agreed that as adoption targets of the new Smartcane BMP program are met, burdensome regulation bought in by its predecessor would be wound back. But what has farmers really excited is that they have now built a system which really works for them.

"Smartcane BMP has been built by sugarcane researchers, farmers and industry, so it's focused on both profitability and sustainability," CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri said.

He said that CANEGROWERS had received tremendous support from two Queensland Government Ministers throughout the project.

"We recognise Minister for Environment, Andrew Powell, for supporting the best management practice approach. We also acknowledge the support and steadfast contributions of Minister for Agriculture John McVeigh in the best practice development process. Both Ministers made themselves accessible throughout the project, such was their commitment to the industry driven program."

The peak group says that the decision to fund the project was respected by growers and industry. The government put the Smartcane BMP through its paces before endorsing the program.

"The modules underwent rigorous third party scientific and technical assessment before being signed off by the department, giving us further confidence that this was the robust system which will assure our growers that they are doing the right thing, assure our communities that our growers are doing the right thing, and assure our international customers that Australian sugar is doing the right thing," said Mr Schembri.

The Smartcane BMP addresses soil health and plant nutrition, pests, disease, weed management and integrated water system management in reef catchments. Additional modules in crop production and harvest management, biodiversity, workplace health and safety and farm business management are also offered as part of the program.

Meanwhile, Australia's largest sugar export market, Korea, is set to sign a renewed trade agreement which will boost Australian sugar’s trade access with its important trading partner.

The Prime Minister announced that as the Australia-Korea free trade negotiations concluded, sugar was listed amongst the commodities which will see tariffs eliminated; a decision worth millions of dollars to Australian farmers.

The news has been applauded loudly by CANEGROWERS, which says the agreement will ensure that its $500 million sugar trade with Korea will continue.

Each year, Australia exports a million tonnes of raw sugar to its Asian trading partner, and according to CANEGROWERS, the new agreement will not only boost the sugar trading relationship between the two countries, it will also put an enormous amount of pressure on global trading giants to step up and modernise their approach to world trade in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations this week in Singapore.

“CANEGROWERS welcomes the improved access for sugar and molasses,” says CEO Brendan Stewart. 

“It demonstrates that high quality free trade agreements, with full inclusion of sugar, can be achieved. Leading into next week’s TPP trade discussions in Singapore, it is a very positive move and an important indication to our friends in Japan and the US that high quality trade agreements can and should include sugar. Exclusions are in no way acceptable in modern trade agreements.”

There had been a huge backlash against US and Japanese calls for sugar to be excluded from the TPP, and CANEGROWERS says that the 12 nations who are party to the TPP negotiations could stand to learn something from the progressive and modern approach to world trade demonstrated by Australia and Korea.

“The new Australia-Korea free trade agreement creates opportunity to build on the existing relationship between Australia and Korea for the sugar industry and for agriculture,” says Mr Stewart.