Canegrowers: Rebate should be available to all irrigation operations

Queensland’s peak sugarcane growers body is calling the recent irrigation rebate given to horticultural growers as “unfair” and “discriminatory” to broadacre farming operations.

The Palaszczuk government announced recently that horticulture growers would be able to access a further 35 per cent rebate on water.

The additional discount on Sunwater and Seqwater irrigation charges for horticulture growers is on top of the 15 per cent discount provided to all irrigators for the next three years.

During the 2020 state election campaign Canegrowers welcomed the acknowledgement from the Labor party that water costs for irrigators were too high and needed to be cut.

However, Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said the cropping community questioned the two-tier approach to price reductions.

“We questioned it at the time and we still do,” Mr Galligan said.

“Offering a 15 per cent price cut to broadacre farming including sugarcane and a 50pc cut to horticulture production is unfair and discriminatory.

“The fact is that all of agriculture contributes to employment and the state economy. Sugarcane farming in Queensland alone underpins a value chain worth around $4 billion of economic activity every year.”

Mr Galligan believes a large rebate should be available to all irrigation operations.

“The price of water holds many growers back from making the most of their water allocations and that means their farms may not be as productive as they could be,” he said.

“If the cost of water were reduced across the board, the water will be used and the benefits in economic activity and jobs will flow too. This is true no matter the crop being grown – broadacre or horticulture.”

Rebates a “significant investment” in the hort sector

Queensland’s horticulture sector has commended the Palaszczuk government on delivering on it’s election commitment to slash irrigation costs.

Growcom Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Barnard, acknowledged the government for its significant investment in the sector and for making the rebate easy to access for growers.

“This rebate is the single most significant initiative this government has put into place to directly benefit the horticultural industry and the jobs it supports,” Mr Barnard said.

“Keeping the red tape to an absolute minimum will ensure more funds would flow to irrigators who can use the support to grow their businesses and invest in the regional communities that rely on them.”

Hort growers eligible for rebate after first bill

Minister for Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water Glenn Butcher said the rebate was part of the government’s $81.6 million commitment to reduce irrigation prices across the state.

“Irrigated agriculture – including fruit, vegetable, nut and turf operations – is one of Queensland’s most important industries, both in terms of employment and value to our economy,” Mr Butcher said.

“This rebate will take the water cost reduction to a 50 per cent discount for horticultural irrigators in recognition of the significant jobs supported by these crops.”

Mr Butcher said growers would be able to apply for the rebate immediately after paying their first bill of the new financial year.

“Every drop of water used to irrigate horticultural crops in the next three years will be eligible for the discount, whether growers apply tomorrow or on 31 December 2024 when the scheme ends.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) has been appointed to administer the additional discount for horticulture irrigators.

“We committed to a rebate scheme that would be simple and straightforward for horticulture growers to access and claim their additional discount,” Mr Furner said.

“I’m pleased to say that we have met that commitment, and that horticultural growers will be able to apply for their rebate using the kinds of evidence they would already have as part of running their business.”

The program will be flexible enough to accommodate all forms of eligible horticultural farm businesses across the State.

Wilmar Sugar’s first shipment departs Mackay

The first raw sugar of the 2021 growing season has been shipped out of the Port of Mackay with many local cane growers eagerly watching on as raw sugar produced at their local mill headed south.

Wilmar’s Plane Creek grower marketing consultant, Angus McKerrow and Mackay Sugar Terminal mechanical supervisor, Hamish Beveridge said the Mackay port tour was organised to provide cane growers throughout the region with insight into the sugar supply chain from the farm to the supermarket shelf.

The raw sugar was loaded into the MV Mareeba bulk carrier and destined for Sugar Australia’s Yarraville Refinery in Melbourne where it will be processed into a variety of products for CSR Sugar and Australian food and beverage customers.

Mr McKerrow said nine growers from the Plane Creek region had attended the port tour and were excited to see the raw sugar from their local mills being loaded onto the ship.

“It was the first shipment for the 2021 season, so it was also about growers being present for that milestone: the first of the new season sugar to leave the region.”

Mr McKerrow said the growers got an appreciation for the processes around storing and loading sugar, and the procedures around quality sampling.

“The logistics of handling sugar from delivery, through to storage and loading are quite complex, and there are a lot of controls in place to maintain the quality of that sugar from port to port,” he said.

“Many thanks goes to Mackay Terminal Manager Mike Panke and Hamish Beveridge for facilitating such a great tour.”

The raw sugar departed Mackay Port on July 20 and was produced at Wilmar’s Plane Creek and Proserpine mills.

Webinar: Enhanced-efficiency nitrogen fertilisers: Potential benefits and selection of products for sugarcane

Please join us as we hear from Dr Weijin Wang as he presents research findings of the project, Smart Blending of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilisers (EEFs) to maximise sugarcane profitability.

To mitigate N loss risks from the conventional urea, many improved N fertiliser formulations known as enhanced-efficiency fertilisers (EEFs) have been developed and tested in various farming systems in the world. Polymer-coated urea (PCU) or controlled-release fertiliser (CRF) can extend N supply for crops after application into soil by controlling N release through an insoluble but permeable coating material, thereby better matching fertiliser N supply with plant N uptake. Coating or impregnating urea with a nitrification inhibitor can suppress the microbial production of nitrate in soil and thus reduce nitrate loss. While EEFs can potentially improve fertiliser N use efficiency by crops and reduce N losses into the environment, they do not always lead to higher yield. Such uncertainty in combination with their higher costs can cause confusion to growers as to whether EEFs should be used or not.

Sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, Sugar Research Australia, Queensland Government and industry partners, field trials were conducted at Bundaberg, Mackay, Ingham, Tully and Innisfail over three cropping seasons from 2016 to 2019.

In this webinar, the project leader Dr Weijin Wang from the Department of Environment and Science will share findings from these trials, his views on EEFs in terms of their agronomic, economic and environmental benefits, and selection of products for cane farming.

Weijin obtained his PhD from the University of Melbourne 20 years ago and since then has been serving in Queensland Government as a soil biochemist, currently in the Department of Environment and Science (DES). With more than 100 peer reviewed publications, he also holds adjunct academic positions in Griffith University and UQ. He has led several projects in the last 20 years on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling and management, including carbon sequestration and nitrous oxide emissions mitigation. In particular, he has been collaborating with various research, development and extension organisations in investigating practicable farm management strategies to increase fertiliser nitrogen use efficiency and minimise nitrogen losses into the environment. These include a recently completed project in the More Profit from Nitrogen program, which looked into the potential environmental and agronomic benefits of enhanced-efficiency nitrogen fertilisers in Queensland sugarcane farming systems.  In today’s webinar, Weijin will report on the findings from this project as well as some outputs from previous projects.

This project was supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, Sugar Research Australia, Queensland Government, with financial contribution from ICL Specialty Fertilisers, Incitec Pivot Ltd., Herbert Cane Productivity Services Ltd. (HCPSL) and Farmacist Pty Ltd.

Click here to join on the day.

Low GI sugar that helps fight obesity, type 2 diabetes now a United Nations award winner

Sydney-born scientist David Kannar never thought developing a low GI sugar would see him internationally recognised less than five years later.

After losing his brother to type 2 diabetes in 2016, Dr Kannar was determined to tackle the sugar crisis and improve world health, minimising the likelihood of obesity and diabetes.

“Diabetes has been described as an epidemic affecting 1 in 20 Australians,” he said.

“When it touched me directly I was motivated to do more.

“I not only wanted to help him, but the millions of people in Australia and around the world who suffer from diabetes.”

He founded the food technology company Nutrition Innovation in 2017, hoping to use his doctorate on a mission to create “healthy sugar”.

Making a low GI sugar

Dr Kannar said creating a low GI sugar meant just taking things back to basics.

“All the carbohydrate sources you take, for example, there is now encouragement to have brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat instead of refined white flour,” he said.

“This is no different. Instead of white sugar it’s just less processed and unrefined brown sugar.”

But a problem arose; there was no technology available to make a consistent, low GI brown sugar.

“So we developed that technology which can be retrofitted into existing sugar mills,” Dr Kannar said. 

The technology has been installed in mills in Africa, Asia, Malaysia, India, South America, and Australia.

“We have interest in sharing the technology we developed to decrease cost and actually get an affordable product where it is needed,” Dr Kannar said.

This work has been recognised at the UN Food Systems Summit, a competition designed to uncover the innovators who are leading the charge for more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food systems.

Nutrition Innovation has been recognised as one of 50 “best small- and medium-sized enterprises” from across the world, transforming food systems for a better tomorrow.

“I’m still getting over the shock of getting it, to be frank,” Dr Kannar said.

“The award is a great honour by the United Nations.

“It’s about more food sustainability. It’s about meeting goals to get affordable, good nutritious food.”

What’s so good about low GI sugar?

GI refers to the glycaemic index for a food and measures how carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels.

It then ranks the quality of carbohydrates based on this score.What’s a low GI diet and will it help you lose weight?Originally designed for people with diabetes, this diet is also promoted for weight loss, but there’s conflicting evidence on its kilo-shedding abilities.Read more

High GI carbohydrates tend to cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, whereas low GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly.

According to Susan McLeod, a nutritionist at LaTrobe University, this slow release of glucose into the bloodstream is proven to be much more beneficial for the body — from improving energy levels to managing weight, diabetes, and other health concerns.

“The lower the glycaemic index the slower our bodies metabolise it,” she said.

“And when sugar is metabolised slower the body can control the release of glucose into our system.

“For someone with diabetes that’s really beneficial because their body doesn’t respond to glucose in the system the same as someone without type two diabetes would … they need that extra time.”

Ms McLeod said diabetics are not the only people who benefit from low GI sugars; it can actually help burn fat.

“When you consume sugar it puts a hold on burning our fat stores and starts to burn the glucose in the sugar because glucose is the body’s preferred energy source,” she said.

When we eat regular sugar, the sugar is broken down into two molecules; glucose and fructose, and our bodies spend more time burning the two than our fat stores.

“Less processing [when making low GI sugar] means the sugar retains a natural antioxidant that actually minimises the amount of breakdown,” Ms McLeod said.

“It means the two molecules don’t separate and there is less glucose available to burn, so we turn to our fat stores quicker and that’s how it has a relationship with obesity.”

Low GI sugar in Australia

Sunshine Sugar, based in northern New South Wales, was the first company in the world to start using Nutrition Innovation’s technology and create their own low GI sugar. 

“We’ve been producing low GI sugar for the past three years,” said Sunshine Sugar chief executive Chris Connors.

“It’s part of our strategic business plan to change the future of our business.”

As a diabetic himself, Mr Connors has seen the benefits of his product. 

“I’m a diabetic and can actually use this sugar and it won’t impact me because it takes that much longer to process,” he said.

Low GI sugar products have been wildly popular overseas but take-up has been slower in Australia.

“It’s taking a bit of time here, but there are certainly many people enquiring about it,” Mr Connors said. 

“We’re now seeing some supermarkets putting the product on their shelves so I think it’ll really pick up.”

New yield benchmark

Sugarcane growers in the Burdekin have a novel new variety to consider for their future farming operations.

The Burdekin Regional Variety Committee (RVC) met earlier this year to consider the commercial merit of the most advanced experimental clones in the Sugar Research Australia (SRA) breeding program and approved the release of SRA32.

Mr Rob Milla, Chair of the RVC and Manager of Burdekin Productivity Services (BPS), explained that the committee includes technical expertise across local production, agronomy, pathology, plant breeding and milling.

“The RVC is recognised under the Queensland Biosecurity Act with responsibility for minimum disease standards and is tasked with making release decisions on new varieties that improve whole-of-industry profitability,” said Mr Milla.

Dr Xianming Wei is SRA’s Variety Development Manager responsible for Burdekin plant breeding, which is expanding this year with 33,000 potential new varieties going into field trials at the SRA Brandon research station.

These potential new varieties then progress to Final Assessment Trials (FATs) conducted under commercial agronomic management conditions on farms across the Burdekin. A range of specialist tests are also completed to determine the disease resistance profile, sugar quality, and fibre quality of advanced clones.

SRA32 has completed testing through to second ratoon in seven Burdekin FATs between 2015 to 2020.

SRA32 has shown exceptional productivity with an advantage of 16 TCH when compared to standard, established varieties in these trials.

“SRA32 has also been very consistent, with cane yield above the average of the standards in 19 of the 20 harvests and 13 of these were statistically significant,” Dr Wei said.

“The new variety does have lower CCS than established varieties, averaging 0.8 units below the standards.

“However, the high yield potential of SRA32 means that the variety offers an advantage in terms of sugar per hectare. The difference in CCS varies with harvest date and crop age so there are opportunities to maximise CCS from SRA32 through management practices.”

SRA Executive Manager for Variety Development, Dr Jason Eglinton, said SRA32 is resistant to leaf scald, mosaic and Pachymetra.

“SRA32 is rated intermediate in reaction to smut, and in Burdekin observation trials infection levels have been higher than Q208 and KQ228 but significantly lower than SRA8. Planting into high smut risk situations should be avoided,” Dr Eglinton said.

Clean seed is a foundation for productivity, but it does take time to generate high volumes for new varieties, explained Rob Milla

“Following standard protocols for propagation through mother plots to distribution plots would see SRA32 become available to growers for billet planting in the 2024 season. However, thanks to SRA and BPS working together to use tissue culture to rapidly produce enough SRA32 plantlets to establish a one-hectare mother plot this year, growers will have clean seed of SRA32 available in 2023, one year ahead of the normal schedule,” Mr Milla said.

Growers interested in managing their own on-farm propagations can order tissue culture plants for delivery for spring planting in 2022, with orders to BPS closing at the end of October.

Record Shared Pool caps season

Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) has finalised its 2020-Season pricing results, with the industry-owned sugar marketer notching up a record weighted average Shared Pool result of +$31 per tonne.

The Shared Pool captures QSL’s operating costs, premiums, other revenue, and the Loyalty Bonus where applicable, and is applied to every tonne marketed through QSL.

QSL General Manager Marketing Mark Hampson, pictured right, said the 2020 Shared Pool return for tonnage priced on the global ICE 11 raw sugar market was a new high for the marketer, which has been marketing sugar on behalf of Queensland cane growers and sugar millers for nearly a century.

Mr Hampson said the strong result reflected the high physical sales premiums available for Australian raw sugar last year, following a significant drop in production out of Thailand, one of our nation’s largest sugar competitors.

“The failure of the Thai crop due to drought in early 2020 and its subsequent slow recovery saw very strong demand for sugar last year in Asia, our primary market,” Mr Hampson said.

“As we’re a not-for-profit, pass-through organization, those higher net marketing returns were passed back to growers through the Shared Pool. That, and a long-awaited improvement in the ICE 11 sugar price saw QSL pools and grower-pricing results increase year-on-year.”

The February 2020 Guaranteed Floor Pool emerged as QSL’s best-performing ICE 11 pool for the season, returning $493/t IPS net, while the US Quota Pool, priced on the ICE 16 and automatically allocated to all QSL growers, returned $702/t IPS net (click here for QSL’s full 2020 pool results).

The highest grower-managed pricing achieved for the 2020 Season was $497/t gross actual in the Target Price Contract, with $456/t gross actual the weighted average price achieved for the season in this popular pricing option.

Mr Hampson said that while physical sales premiums had tempered for the 2021 Season, strong ICE 11 prices were still translating into attractive returns for Queensland sugar producers.

“QSL has seen record levels of grower-managed pricing in the past six months as our growers sought to lock in 2021-Season prices above the key $500/t level,” he said. 

“The 2021-Season Target Price Contract passing $550/t this week, while QSL-managed pools are also off to strong start, with the 2021 Harvest Pool currently returning a weighted average of $516/t IPS net and the Actively Managed Pool not far behind it on $513/t IPS net.” (Click here for current market levels)

While Thailand is continuing to rebuild its crop, all eyes are now on the world’s largest sugar producer, Brazil, which has had a dry start to their season, prompting crop revisions and hopes of a continuing deficit market and associated strong sugar prices.

“With a decent Queensland crop in the paddock and attractive sugar prices, it’s shaping up to be a good season after a couple of tough years,” Mr Hampson said.

For more information contact Cathy Kelly on 0409 285 074