THE language barrier provided plenty of amusing moments when 16 Brazilian cane growers turned up in Mackay to meet with Canegrowers Mackay chairman Paul Schembri and staff last week.
While accompanied by interpreter Guilherme Santana, as well as the reasonably good English-speaking skills of cane grower Gilberto Ferreira da Costa Lima, the language difficulties while trying to do ordinary things, such as ordering food or understanding presentations, kept the two-day visit to Mackay on a light-hearted footing.
During their visit to Australia, the cane growers toured an operating sugar mill in the Burdekin, attended a presentation by Canegrowers Mackay CEO Kerry Latter, went on a tour of cane grower Tony Bugeja's cane farm in the Palmyra district, were presented with pest and nutrition information from Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) staff at the Tekowai Research Station, had lunch at Canegrowers Mackay office at Wood Street and visited the Mackay bulk sugar terminal at Mackay Harbour.
Many of the growers on tour represented Coplacana, one of the most influential cooperatives in Brazil, with about 14 branches and about 8000 members, and growing.
The tour group requested a meeting with members of Canegrowers Mackay to, as Mr Santana said, "visit farms and learn how the Australian cooperative works, and exchange experiences…"
"Our chairman (Paul Schembri) was at the office to welcome the delegation to Mackay, which they were very happy about, and they then were given the information presentation, which gave them a rounded view of how our industry and our organisation works."
Mr Latter said the following day the group climbed aboard a bus and headed to the Palymra district to inspect the innovative machinery, technologies and practices used on Tony Bugeja's cane farm. On the return to Mackay, the bus stopped at the BSES Tekowai Research Station, where a short presentation on weeds, pests and nutrition was presented by MAPS general manager Burn Ashburner and senior extension officer John Agnew.
Mr Latter said the topics of most interest to the farmers included trash blanketing, burning (as there is now a blanket fire ban across sugar growing regions in Brazil), pests, varieties, planting, irrigation and equipment innovation.
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