Canegrowers act to secure a better future

Canegrowers act to secure a better future

From The Australian Canegrower, August 2018

Paul Schembri, Chairman CANEGROWERS

Ever since the first commercial cane plots were planted in Mackay in the late-1860s, Queensland growers have drawn on their resilience, adaptability and innovation to overcome countless challenges and threats.

We have faced many trials during the intervening 150 years and, thankfully, had many successes. However, as old threats and challenges are overcome they are inevitably replaced with new ones, so we cannot afford to become complacent.

Perhaps the greatest social force that has emerged in the past three decades is the pressure on industries to maintain their social license to operate – the implied community support for an industry.

To dismiss the requirement for a social license would be foolish in the extreme. Australia is littered with once great industries that have lost or are losing their vote of community support.

Hence, two great challenges have emerged for the Queensland sugar industry – the health of the Great Barrier Reef and sugar’s role in the diet of Australians.

The alleged impacts our farming operations have had on the Reef have been with us for decades.

We are proud of the enormous changes we have made to our farming and cultural practices over the last 30 years.

However, despite all of our environmental endeavours, the Queensland Government seems set to introduce more regulations on farmers and other industries.

On the other hand, the issue of sugar in the diets of Australians has grown over 10 years to now be the number one threat.

The calls for a sugar tax are testament to the seriousness of this threat. However, we are not alone in facing this challenge – it is a major threat to the entire global sugar industry.

Industry action

We could choose to simply do nothing and hope that these threats will go away. But history has taught us that the industries who respond with a measured and structured approach to social license challenges are the ones that are likely to survive.

That is why CANEGROWERS, in conjunction with the Australian Sugar Milling Council, is currently in discussions with the other grower representative organisations with a view of creating an ‘industry good’ funding pool to take on these challenges.

Twenty years ago, the Australian cotton industry faced an uncertain future based on community concerns about its chemical use. The cotton industry rolled up its sleeves and, among other things, funded a cotton speci?c BMP program that has reinstated its environmental reputation.

Industry good funding will give us a similar ability to have programs that will preserve and even enhance our reputation.

For completeness, our Trade and Market Access functions will also bene?t from this industry good funding.

We export 80% of our production, so we need to maintain current markets whilst sourcing new ones. Front and centre of our current trade responsibility is to mount a challenge in the World Trade Organisation against export subsidies in India and Pakistan.

The Australian sugar industry is at its best when we come together and take on major threats.  A problem shared is often a problem solved. It is CANEGROWERS’ hope that all grower groups and all sugar milling companies can come together to secure our future.


This article is republished from the August edition of Australian Canegrower, published by CANEGROWERS, the peak body for Australian Sugarcane Canegrowers.