Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine.
Sugar cane harvesting at Gregory River near Proserpine. Peter Carruthers

Big picture cane production

PROSERPINE Canegrowers are encouraging candidates vying to lead the Whitsunday community to look at the big picture, including the sustainability of the industry when deciding how to govern long-term sugar policy in Queensland.

By 2020, one of the world's largest sugar consumers, the Cola Cola Company, plans to achieve its 100% sustainably sourced goal for key agricultural ingredients.

The mechanism to achieve this goal is the sourcing of sugar from millers that have been accredited under parameters set by the international not-for-profit company, Bonsucro.

Already the voluntary BMP Smartcane program has included a Bonsucro module, but it's not yet clear if growers will be expected to comply with Bonsucro standards in order to sell sugar beyond 2020.

Few growers in the Proserpine district have BMP Smartcane accreditation, a factor in the low take-up rates is the time it takes for growers to make detailed records of on-farm practices.

Prosperine Canegrowers manager Mike Porter said it was the miller's responsibility to ensure the cane entering the mill was ethically and sustainability produced.

"The mills are Bonsucro approved, but their farming side needs an extra step to get the Bonsucro accreditation,” he said.

Mr Porter said there had been discussion about big sugar buyers rejecting non-Bonsucro accredited sugar.

"That day hasn't come and we don't know whether there is any proof in what they are doing.

"Unilever, Coca Cola have all signed an agreement, that that is their intention, but if the industry can't deliver that I don't know what they are going to do.

"The race is on to make sure our growers are doing the right thing and are ticking a box for the people that have signed up to Bonsucro.”

Mr Porter said the BMP Smartcane program was the Australian equivalent of Bonsucro, which ensured an ethical and sustainable industry and suggested the two benchmarks needed to be unified.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Dale Last said last week the LNP was "fully committed to supporting Smartcane”.

Mr Porter flagged sustainability in the sugar industry as the single biggest issue that will face growers in the next 10 years.

"What we are trying to do is focus the candidates' attention on the issues which are a priority for us. Those are things such as the overall sustainability of the industry and this move toward sustainably grown sugar,” he said.

"We want to remain apolitical, we encourage our members to vote for the candidate they think is the right person for the job.”

Queensland's Labor Party has committed to fund BMP programs if re-elected tomorrow by pledging $29 million for BMP support over the next five years and $21 million to improve BMP take-up rates.