Years of hard work by Australian trade negotiators and the sugarcane industry have come to fruition this month, with the first commercial shipment of Australian sugar destined for London in almost half a century.
I was privileged to be on site on Monday 10 July when the first raw sugar shipment to the United Kingdom under the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (A-UKFTA) was loaded at the Port of Townsville.
This shipment of raw sugar, produced from my home region in the Burdekin, signifies the opening of an important new market for the Queensland sugar industry.
Under the A-UKFTA, that came into place on 31 May 2023, tariff-free raw sugar exports to the UK resumed for the first time since 1973 and will gradually increase from an initial allocation of 80,000 tonnes this year (pro rata) until tariffs are eliminated completely on 1 January 2031.
The inclusion of sugar in the A-UKFTA is the culmination of a lot of hard work from a whole team of professionals including people from CANEGROWERS and other sugar industry stakeholders, who have worked closely with the Australian Government negotiators since 2020.
This market is opening up because sugarcane growers have taken steps to adopt the industry led on-farm environmental management program, Smartcane BMP.
Smartcane BMP has been working with sugarcane farmers across Queensland to record and verify their practice improvements since 2014, more than forty per cent of sugarcane grown in Queensland is Smartcane BMP accredited and growers across the state continue to invest in sustainability while trying to maintain on-farm profitability.
This UK FTA was the first time we have seen the market specifically seek out sustainability produced sugar. UK sugar refiners Tate and Lyle made it clear, from the very beginning, that the reason they wanted to source raw sugar from Australia is because of our world-class sustainability credentials.
I hope sugarcane growers across Queensland stand proud of these credentials and their efforts in supporting the re-opening of this valuable market for the Australian industry.