While we may have heard the term roadmap a lot lately and may be a bit tired of it, the Sugarcane Industry Roadmap project is one to pay attention to. The first important thing to notice about the project is that it is bringing everyone together which is an important point working in its favour to being successful.
CANEGROWERS began work with Sugar Research Australia and the Sugar Milling Council on this around a year ago. We met to talk about our resilience and how to build on our strengths to stabilise the industry and secure a prosperous and long-term future. One thing we identified was the need for a unified strategy that recognised the industry’s existing contribution and future potential.
Now we have other grower groups and, importantly, the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) involved. By the end of this year we will have a draft Sugarcane Industry Roadmap.
With the support of the CRCNA, this project will identify the future forces likely to impact our industry, establish agreed priorities between all the parts of industry so we work together and provide insight into the skills, resources, innovation and infrastructure that will be needed for success.
CANEGROWERS is on the project steering committee, and we have ensured that a range of grower perspectives from across the industry are being taken into account as consultations get underway.
For this exercise to be more than talk, CANEGROWERS will ensure that grower perspectives and opinions are heard at every step in the process. We need as many people as possible to be involved when the opportunity arises so that we can have something that everybody can take ownership of.
As growers, the key to the future is profitability. We need to be sustainable in an economic sense.
I think our mainstay is always going to be sugar production and we have export markets keen for our sugar, but the sugar price can be variable and we have no control over it.
So, a big part of securing the future will be about utilising sugar for other reasons, for things like biofuels and biomass and working out as an industry how we make that work.
Governments have been always interested in the potential of sugarcane and sugar for other products but there has always been an element of policy to help it become reality.
By having an industry plan, the first ever for the sugarcane industry, we will show that we are serious. It is a unique opportunity for us to come together and see if we can put suggestions to government, work with government for the future.
I am hopeful. My experience in the industry is that if we put everybody together and we have the same vision, and provided the commitment is there, we can find a solution, a pathway and follow our roadmap.