Plan unveiled for sugarcane industry to drive bioeconomy boom

The sugarcane industry could become the backbone of an Australian bioeconomy superhighway under a plan unveiled at the Developing Northern Australia Conference in Mackay.

The Sugar Plus vision and roadmap was developed in partnership by sugar industry organisations with support from the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

CRCNA Chief Executive Officer Anne Stünzner said Sugar Plus outlines an important role for the industry in Fuelling the Future of Food, Energy and Fabrication.

“The sugarcane industry has identified an exciting and transformational future of sustainably producing sugar and bioproducts at the heart of regional communities,” Ms Stünzner said.

“The roadmap outlines opportunities for a substantially larger industry. A growing bioeconomy industry will enable Australia to become increasingly self-sufficient, improving economic resilience and national security.”

Ms Stünzner said analysis undertaken in developing the roadmap indicated enormous opportunity.

“Australian demand for heavy fuels and plastics is substantial. Even modest adoption of biofuels and bioplastic equates to a substantial amount of sugar equivalent alternative products. Australia’s current domestic market alone would create massive demand for alternative protein feedstock, aviation fuel and bioplastics,” Ms  Stünzner said.

“It’s now over to the industry to bring this roadmap to life and take the necessary steps to ensure this is not just another report but a clear plan for action,” she said.

Sugar Research Australia Chief Executive Officer Roslyn Baker congratulated industry organisations for the strong partnership and collaboration in developing the roadmap and their commitment to innovation and growth.

“The roadmap includes initiatives to support better business-as-usual in the near term, add value and create new revenue streams in the medium term, and become a bioeconomy powerhouse in the longer term,” Ms Baker said.

  • Food is where it all starts. Raw sugar will continue to play an important role in feeding the world. Sugar is also an important feedstock for the new generation of animal free foods.
  • Energy that builds on current cogenerated power and ethanol, provides the next generation of sustainable mobility and power. The sugarcane plant is one of the best natural sources for transforming into renewable energy and biofuels for heavy transport and aviation.
  • Fabrication for the future is about making products that enable a more sustainable way of life, including replacements for the many plastic items produced and used every day.

“The roadmap outlines the actions needed across a range of levels, from individual farms to local communities through regional coordination or support of a mill and national leadership,” Ms Baker said.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said Sugar Plus highlighted the sugar industry’s important role in supporting long-term economic development in Queensland.

“Queensland produces almost 95 per cent of Australia’s sugar cane which is worth almost $4 billion dollars a year to the nation’s economy and supports 23,000 direct and indirect jobs from Mossman in far north Queensland, through to northern New South Wales,” Mr Furner said.

“That is why the Queensland Government supported the development of this industry-led initiative, backing the industry to come together to make the Sugar Plus vision a reality.

“We look forward to the ongoing implementation of key priorities that align with those of the Queensland Government and will work with industry to responsibly grow the bioeconomy in regional Queensland.”

The roadmap was developed through a nine-month engagement process across the Australian sugar industry supply chain. It was jointly funded and supported by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, Sugar Research Australia (as project sponsor), CANEGROWERS, the Australian Sugar Milling Council, AgForce, Australian Cane Farmers Association and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Media contacts:

Carla Keith, CRCNA, 0499 330 051

Cathy Weis, Sugar Research Australia, 0419 715 815