21 May 2021
As we draw towards the start of the 2021 crush, the many details close to home that get the massive effort of the sugarcane harvest underway make it a busy and exciting time. There has also been a lot happening on the national and international stages for CANEGROWERS and the sugarcane industry.
I travelled to chilly Canberra recently for the first face-to-face meeting of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) membership since late 2019. It was good to discuss issues of mutual interest with representatives of similar organisations from around the country and across all of Australia’s agricultural industries.
CANEGROWERS is the commodity council representative for the sugarcane industry on the NFF, speaking for growers in both Queensland and New South Wales.
The meeting was a day after the Federal Budget which for agriculture included meaningful investment in trade, infrastructure; soils and climate change adaptation; telecommunications and regional health.
In fact the Budget met many of the asks which were highlighted in the NFF's budget submission. In particular, it exceeded the $400 million over four years that the NFF, on behalf of members, said was necessary to extend and modernise Australia’s ailing biosecurity system. This is good news for the sugarcane industry as we know there are many disease and pest threats to our crop in other sugar-producing nations.
The NFF meeting also endorsed an amendment to the NFF’s biosecurity policy calling for the implementation of a national biosecurity strategy; a government commitment to a sustainable long-term, renewable funding stream and improved industry and government communication during and outside biosecurity incidents.
Next month it is our turn in Queensland to host a big meeting – an international meeting of the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers.
This organisation represents growers, just like us, who are members of grower organisations in more than 35 countries.
Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, this will be a virtual meeting and we at CANEGROWERS are working through the challenges of linking up simultaneously with countries in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. It is essentially a United Nations of farmers and we aim to give the delegates a satisfying virtual visit to Australia’s sugarcane industry using video and discussions.
Also on international stage, CANEGROWERS has been playing an important role providing advice as Australia negotiates two important trade deals.
In talks towards both the EU-Australia and UK-Australia Free Trade Agreements, there has been a strong focus on Australia’s sustainability credentials for all commodities, including sugar. Negotiators and Australian Embassy officials now describe this as a ‘bread and butter’ trade issue that they are responding to on an almost daily basis.
It’s an area, thanks to the efforts of growers, where we have the runs on the board.
Drawing on the strong participation of growers in Smartcane BMP right across the Queensland sugar industry, CANEGROWERS has been responding to requests for information to support a positive outcome for sugar in the negotiations.