As a cane grower accredited in the industry’s voluntary Smartcane BMP program for productivity, profitability and sustainability I am dismayed by rumours and misinformation circulating about the program.
Disappointingly, some of it is coming from fellow farmer representative groups which, for some reason, are working to undermine the significant efforts of cane growers to secure their future. Without repeating everything that’s being said, I need to set the record straight with some facts.
Smartcane BMP is not just about environmental compliance and the recommended farm practices are not based on water quality monitoring. It was developed by industry based on years of sugarcane production research to make the most efficient use of nutrients and water while keeping soils productive. It is focussed on both profit and sustainability – there are no trade-offs.
Customers purchasing Australia’s export raw sugar are increasingly demanding proof of its clean, green, sustainability credentials and Smartcane BMP is helping us to preserve our reputation in the world market. With around 85% of our production each year going overseas, the importance of this cannot be understated.
Most growers get this. The 10% figure being thrown around about the interest of cane growers in Smartcane BMP is just wrong. The fact is that 85% of Queensland’s sugarcane farmland is enrolled in the program by the growers who manage it. 35% has been accredited so far.
My brother and I are one of the 685 farm businesses accredited in the five years the program has been running. In that time, following the best management practices, our production has gone up.
Which brings me to another myth doing the rounds, that Smartcane BMP drives down production. Some people may be confusing the industry program with government reef regulations which potentially hold that risk for us, which is why CANEGROWERS opposes them.
Would so many growers, and big corporations like Wilmar Sugar, stick with Smartcane BMP if it hurts their bottom lines? Of course they wouldn’t
If this claim is from accredited growers who are suffering production losses, I suggest with all concern that they talk to their Smartcane BMP facilitator and other advisors about what’s happening because one of the many benefits of the program is that, through discussion, it can be tailored to specific approaches that an individual farmer takes in driving for best practice. Otherwise, it is just perplexing rumour-spreading by people who are not part of the program and obviously don’t fully understand it.
The final thing I want to emphasise about Smartcane BMP is that, unlike some programs in other industries in the past, no grower data is being accessed by government. To suggest otherwise is wrong. I know this because all of my farm records are in my home and have not been passed on anywhere. CANEGROWERS believes the best place for farm records are on the farm.
I would urge anyone with questions or concerns to contact the Smartcane BMP team, not rely on rumours.
Smartcane BMP is not the only program in the sugar industry, and it does not seek to be everything to everyone, but it is playing a big part in securing our future. It is time everyone in the industry had that same focus and stopped trying to cut down the efforts of others.