FOR THE Australian Sugar Industry Alliance (ASA), and founding organisations, Canegrowers and the Australian Sugar Milling Council, 2012 has been the year of on-target reform of sugar industry research, development and extension (RD&E) arrangements.
The unambiguous 'yes' vote by over 84% of grower and miller voters in the August Sugar Poll 2012, gave industry leaders the green light to move forward with plans to form Sugar Research Australia, a new industry-owned company that will consolidate and modernise the industry's existing research structures by bringing in assets and activities of BSES, SRDC and aspects of SRL.
Achieving Sugar Research Australia by 1 July 2013 will require a large, ongoing effort and is our number one priority.
Right on schedule, on September 20, ASA lodged a full application to Senator Joe Ludwig, Federal Minister for Agriculture, on establishing an industry-owned company, Sugar Research Australia, with the industry supported new statutory levy of 70 cents a tonne each harvest year (35c/t to be paid each by the grower and the miller in place of BSES fees and the SRDC levy).
"An industry-backed new, single, modern research organis- ation is crucial for the long-term sustainable growth of our industry," said Alf Cristaudo, chair of ASA and Canegrowers.
"We sent a professional, comprehensive application to Minister Joe Ludwig three months ago to facilitate assessment of the proposal for a statutory levy and the legislation needed before the next federal election in 2013."
Australian Sugar Milling Council chair Quinton Hildebrand reinforced the message that collaborative work by Canegrowers and the Milling Council to establish Sugar Research Australia (SRA) over 2011 and 2012 clearly demonstrates this industry is moving to a new level of investment and co-operation in research and development.
"Achieving Sugar Research Australia by 1 July 2013 will require a large, ongoing effort and is our number one priority," said Mr Hildebrand, referring to an Australian Sugar Industry Alliance statement issued on December 18 to update all stakeholders on progress, especially BSES, SRDC and SRL staff.
Sugar Research Australia development activity is under way, in parallel with Australian Government considerations.
Steps toward legislative processes will be needed from early 2013. ASA will continue to communicate progress through statements for growers, millers, staff and researchers.
ASA's forward program in preparation for Sugar Research Australia includes identification of an initial board of directors for Sugar Research Australia Limited over February to April 2013.
Advertisements will seek expressions of interest for 6-8 director positions and for roles in the SRA Research Funding Panel as a committee of the board. ASA will write to chairs and directors of BSES, SRDC and SRL inviting interest. "The Australian Sugar Industry Alliance is committed to progressing all the work, arrangements and interactions needed to achieve a successful start of Sugar Research Australia Limited backed by the new statutory levy on the target date of 1 July 2013," Mr Cristaudo said yesterday.
"We are working with Senator Ludwig and meeting regularly with his Department to assist timely considerations."
"ASA recognises and appreciates the procedures and steps needed to bring together whole-of-government support for such an industry-led initiative.
Overall, ASA understands the target 1 July 2013 timeframe is achievable and this timing is vitally important for the Australian Sugar Industry."
In the next days, growers and millers should also receive letters explaining the arrangements for the BSES Service Fee in 2013 and for changes when Sugar Research Australia starts with a new sugar levy. As part of the RD&E reform program, for 2013, the grower BSES service fee will stay at 30 cents a tonne, and the SRDC levy at seven cents a tonne.
On the start of Sugar Research Australia with the new levy, growers will pay 35 cents a tonne in total (collected at the mill as occurs now) and the BSES service fees and SRDC levy will stop.