WABCG Conference

> WABCG Conference

(posted on 10/07/07)

WABCG Press release 1

Renewable energy key to soured beet and cane outlook, says International WABCG conference

The World Association of Beet and Cane Growers holds its 9th World Conference in Brisbane, Australia, from 9 to 11 July 2007. With Mr Bill Hejl, President of WABCG, in the chair, the Conference is attended by 180 delegates representing nearly 24 countries. The WABCG is the unique international body to represent view points and interests of 6 millions of beet and cane growers.


Mr Hejl, who is a beet grower from North Dakota USA, said the future of beet and cane production worldwide looks brighter, despite beet and cane growers current sour attitude towards prices due to the lull in the market brought about by a combination of exchange rates, inflation and market pressures.


Chairing the opening of the conference, Mr Hejl, expressed concern about the return to low prices on the world sugar market.  “The world is back to levels that don’t allow a dignified standard of living for beet and cane growers,” he said.


“Unfavourable exchange rates have affected the revenue of growers worldwide, in many cases pushing them to produce below their cost of production.”


The conference also heard reports on the impact and benefits of renewable energy on the Brazilian sugar cane and US corn sectors.


“There is still a major capacity for beet and cane growers worldwide to extend their production, but as the sugar market is already well and truly supplied, they will have to concentrate on other markets, particularly the renewable energy market,” said Mr Hejl.


Mr Hejl says that with the correct government and industry setting, renewable energy from the beet and cane would continue to be a valuable renewable alternative income stream for sugar producers.


A line up of speakers from international sugar companies across the globe addressed the conference on matters of world interest.  Amongst them, Lindsay Jolly, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organisation, looked at Brazil’s movement towards a world sugar market of 50% by 2010.  Mr Jolly examined the role of ethanol in that growth and discussed the potential impact of the development of a international energy market.


Nick Wainwright of Czarnikow Sugar delved into world markets and impacts on growers, forecasting that the current world sugar lows would be countered, painting a more positive future in the medium term.  He also discussed the substantial production increases in India.


Beyond the significant involvement of growers in research and development, the conference underlined the progress already made over the last 15 years, notably the significant reduction in inputs per hectare and the widespread reduction in the burning of cane.  Biotechnology, with stringent research and public awareness measures, is showing its potential for speeding growers towards more cost efficient and environmentally friendly growing.


The conference continues today with a live video link with the Chairmen of the Senate Budget Committee and House Agriculture Committee and their comments on current progress on the US Farm Bill.  WABCG will conclude its official sessions on Wednesday afternoon, and is followed by a farm study tour to cane properties in Northern New South Wales.


Mr Hejl will be retiring from the Presidents chair on Wednesday, having concluded an action packed three-year term heading up the global beet and cane organisation.


WABCG Press release 2

11 June, 2007                                                                             


Trade, Renewable Fuel & Biotechnology to sweeten dividends 


International trade opportunity was a focus of sugar producers from more than 20 countries across the globe, who converged on Brisbane this week for the 9th congress of the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG). Delegates were briefed directly by two of the key decision makers of the US Congress during a live video link from Washington yesterday.


US Senator Kent Conrad - Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and US Congressman Collin Peterson - Chairman of House Agricultural committee, were welcomed by Alf Cristaudo, Chairman of CANEGROWERS Australia.


The influential representatives, who are currently involved in finalising the 2007 US Farm Bill, briefed the conference by via direct video link, after which they took questions from the floor.  Conrad and Peterson clearly reinforced the United States’ intention to develop a strong US renewable fuels industry based on ethanol.  Both were confident that US farmers and ethanol exporters from around the world could benefit from the policy which will require the blending of ethanol with all gasoline used in the USA.


Trade and regulatory change was fresh on the minds of delegates who had just been briefed by the President of CIBE, Jos Van Campen and Allan Rickards of Jamaica who detailed ongoing changes to the EU regime, and the impact of reduced sugar exports and prices on the European industry, African Caribbean producers and lesser-developed countries.  Richard Fitzgerald, an Irish beet farmer, followed on by telling a very personal story of the demise of the Irish beet industry following the European reforms.


The enormous potential offered by biotechnology was reinforced by Tom Schwartz, Executive Vice President of the US Beet Sugar Development Foundation. Mr Schwartz advised that Roundup ready sugarbeet was now a commercial reality in the US and that significant plantings of the environmentally friendly product would now follow.


CANEGROWERS Australia Chairman, Alf Cristaudo reinforced Mr Schwartz’s findings that enormous environmental positives are possible through the use of these technologies.


“These technologies are immensely important to the future of the cane and beet industries,” said Mr Cristaudo.  “These biotechnological breakthroughs have demonstrated a substantial reduction in the use of pesticides and herbicides, not to mention the reduction in carbon emissions with less tractor passes.  Greater nitrogen efficiencies are also offered, potentially reducing fertiliser use.  These outcomes are great for the community, the environment and for farmers.” 


Yesterday afternoon the conference witnessed first hand technological developments when hosted by CSIRO and BSES for a research and development tour onsite at the BSES Limited facilities at Indooroopilly.


The agenda for today includes a line up of world authorities on health and consumption.  This will be followed by a focus on innovation with speakers looking at biogas, wind power and carbon credit trading.  Food security and sustainable development will take the conference to its official closing session, and some of the delegates will then venture to cane fields in Northern NSW for a farm study tour.


WABCG Press release 3

Sugar the natural energy of life and part of a renewable future 

According to Bill Hejl, a beet grower from North Dakota USA, cane and beet growers will continue to husband and care for their environment, however the ability to do so is increasingly determined by the policies of others.

While the world’s farmers have long appreciated their role as stewards of the land, the key to their long-term sustainability hinges on leadership from farmers and governments – driven by self-management rather than a regulatory approach.

There is a need for positive forward-looking government policies impacting on domestic production, world trade, and the long term health of the planet,” said Mr Hejl in his outgoing speech as President of the World Association for Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG) today.

After serving a three year term on the body charged with bringing together the interests of beet and cane producers worldwide, Mr Hejl told WABCG conference delegates that he remains optimistic that their product is natural, renewable and fundamental to a healthy, sustainable community.

He also reiterated that market forces, such as the price decline during the past twelve months in almost all sugar markets, will place stress on both cane and beet producers.

“A drop in revenues has, for those reliant on the world trade, been magnified by a weak US dollar,” he says.

Mr Hejl says beet and cane producers firmly believe that nations have an opportunity to look to the future, to introduce robust renewable fuels policies which would contribute to the community and to the environment. 

“Opportunities presented by the use of bio-technology to develop crops consuming less herbicides, pesticides and fuels are now a reality,” he said. 

“Sustainable, reliable, high volume production of renewable transport fuels to offset the decline in the increasingly costly and polluting carbon based fuels is an important step in the right direction.”

Beet and cane industries are increasingly innovative and seeking mechanisms to improve productivity. “They are ideally placed to play a major part in assisting the world to clean up its backyard – governments, communities and consumers now need to ensure that it becomes a reality,” he said.

In his closing message Mr Hejl reiterated that he has long been a strong believer in the longer term for the cane and beet industries “sugar is in all respects, the natural, sustainable and pure energy of life,” he said.

Incoming President, Alf Cristaudo who is also Chairman of CANEGROWERS Australia, has taken up the mantle of ensuring that the voice of sugar growers, the mainstay of a vital national and international industry, is heard on key stages.

“We are all growers – we come from different cultural and political environments, but by understanding each others positions we can use our common interests to work to build real strength into representing beet and cane growers worldwide,” says Mr Cristaudo.

“By better understanding each others issues and concerns, we can work together using our commonality to deliver better outcomes for all growers.

“We have a strong membership which could only be made stronger with the addition of more beet and cane growing countries across the globe,” he said. 

Mr Cristaudo also spoke passionately about building a strong future for the beet and cane, an industry he says is no longer solely reliant on sugar.

“Renewable fuels and energy provide enormous potential for cane and beet growers into the future.  We need to engender the momentum created with the biofuel revolution even further.  With even more countries on board we would bring great strength to the move to renewable fuels and energy.”