In just six years, the sugar industry will celebrate 150 years of operation. A century and a half ago no one would have imaged the sophisticated and technologically advanced industry that we have today.
We can now play an active part in selecting a sugar pricing option for that component of the final product which contributes to our incomes. Exposed to the world price, we are the only sugar producers in the world with total exposure to the world and the option to forward price.
Increasingly bulk customers for Australian sugar are talking about sustainability so we are embracing an industry-developed and driven, but independently accredited, best management practice program, Smartcane BMP.
We have been boldly meeting the practice changes needed to ensure both good water quality for the Great Barrier Reef environment and the confidence of our communities in our stewardship of the land. Smartcane BMP is the way we can validate what we are doing.
Technology has been a big part of the changes. New harvester designs mean that most districts gave up burning sugarcane in the 1980s and leave the chopped leaf matter on the ground to nourish the soil, prevent erosion and mitigate nutrient losses.
On the majority of farms, expensive fertiliser is not broadcast on top of the soil to wash away. Instead, stool splitters mean it is buried directly into the roots of our cane plants.
GPS guidance allows for precision in planting, weed control, fertiliser application and harvesting.
Our future challenges will be met with the adaptability and ingenuity that our growers have already shown along with ongoing industry and government commitments to research and development.
The future will see us continue to provide an efficiently and sustainably produced product into a world commodity market feeding a growing population. To do that we need access to markets that are not distorted by quotas or artificial barriers and Free Trade Agreements that include all agricultural produce unlike past experience in which our product has been excluded.
Increasing interest and investment in biofuels is an important pathway for our future provided there is a contractual or legislated mechanism to ensure growers are paid a share of profits because at present we are only paid for the sugar produced from our cane.
No doubt the next chapter will just as exciting and full of developments. I am confident about the future of the Australian sugarcane industry and our capacity to be a strong and vibrant contributor.