Cane farmer Robert Quirk.
Cane farmer Robert Quirk.

Cane growers to set standard

GROWING sugarcane, leading the world in protection of the environment and improving working conditions in developing countries are tasks not usually spoken of in the one sentence.

But that is exactly what Tweed farmers are doing through their membership of a ‘global round table’ for sugar production which last week put on public display a list of international principles that producers across the world are being asked to follow.

On Saturday, chairman of the Tweed branch of the Canegrowers Association Robert Quirk returned from the international conference of the Better Sugar Cane Initiative in Chennai, India, where the standards were adopted.

“We signed off on our standards which will go on exhibition on our website,” Mr Quirk said.

“They cover a range of matters including protection of high conservation vegetation.

“The Brazilians are struggling with that one – they are not clearing any more land for sugarcane but they do have another 60 million hectares of that sort of land so it could be a big problem.

“One of the major things we are trying to eliminate in the world is child labour. We have also adopted ILO (International Labour Organisation) standards.

“In Australia we are regulated fairly well anyway. And we are probably the leading country in the world in environmental management.”

Mr Quirk said during October a team of auditors from Brazil had inspected his farm, two in north Queensland and the Mossman mill and passed all of them after finding “no problems”.

“The Australian industry has nothing to fear from this,” he added.

Mr Quirk said the standards applied both to sugar production for food and for ethanol.

“To get ethanol into the UK membership of bettersugarcane was the way in,” he said. “Now our standards will be accepted as the way in for ethanol to Europe as well.”

Tweed canefarmers have received a $1.5 million extra in their harvest pay packets, thanks to a high-sugar content in this year’s harvest even though the tonnage of cane cut was lower than expected. Mr Quirk said the upgraded the sugar content was “higher than budgeted for”.



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