Sugar surplus on the horizon

The upcoming worldwide cane and beet harvest, coupled with demand uncertainty, will underpin the emergence of a small global sugar surplus in the 2020/21 season, Rabobank says in its just-released Sugar Quarterly report.

With Europe, the US and India about to embark on their respective harvests, and Australia and Brazil wrapping up their seasons, Rabobank’s revised-down 2019/20 deficit projection points to a well-supplied market – and suggests raw sugar prices will continue trading in a USc 11/lb to USc 13/lb range.

Demand during the coming months – if and when pandemic-driven sugar consumption declines appear in trade – would also impact the short-term outlook for sugar.

Additionally, the Q3 report said, prices would remain constrained to the downside by Brazil’s ethanol parity (the price below which Brazilian mills switch to cane ethanol production) and to the upside by India’s export parity (the price above which it is feasible for India to export sugar to the globe).

Rabobank anticipates a one million tonne raw-value global deficit for sugar through the 2019/20 (October to September) season, down from 4.3 million metric tonnes previously – the shallow deficit following a particularly strong Brazilian sugar cane harvest, coupled with a projected 1.5 per cent year-on-year fall in 2019/20 global consumption.

However, Rabobank analyst Charles Clack said, opportunity remained, largely thanks to a tighter white sugar supply driving an elevated white premium – at USD 70 to USD 80/metric tonne – and an elevated Far East premium (the premium paid to exporters located near to Asia, where sugar appetite far exceeds regional production).

“These premiums stem primarily from a sharp fall in 2020/21 Thai exports, with sugar output in the region set to fall by 10 per cent year on year following a decline in seasonal acres and an early-season drought,” Clack said.

Global refineries and Asia-focused exporters, he said, would be the main beneficiaries of these premiums.

Speculative buyers were also injecting a fresh dynamic into sugar markets, thanks to the emerging popularity of ag commodities amongst index funds.

“Sugar has been a firm favourite of speculative buyers since June, and broader market sentiment in FX, equities and commodity markets will continue to drive volatility,” Clack said.

Looking ahead to 2020/21, Rabobank anticipates a 0.2 million metric tonne sugar surplus – driven largely by production recoveries across India, Thailand, the EU and the NAFTA area.

“This production rise will however be partially offset by a 1.9 per cent year-on-year recovery in 2020/21 global consumption, assuming a return to more normal consumer habits amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clack said.

Australian crush roaring ahead
With the Australian crush continuing at pace – 62 per cent of the nation’s cane had been cut as of late-September – weekly crushing totals were exceeding 1.5 million metric tonnes, matching the peak volumes of previous seasons.

However, Clack said, a rain-delayed lower crush in late July and early August put the crush 10 percentage points behind 2018.

“Operations slowed most in the Burdekin and Herbert regions, before returning strongly and all regions now report the 2020 crush at 60 to 67 per cent complete.”

While cane yields proved strong, the national average of commercial cane sugar continued to disappoint, Clack said, sitting at 13.36 compared to 13.68 in 2019.

“Better results, of over 14, have been recorded in the central, southern and Burdekin regions, with lower results in the north and in NSW.”

Considering these figures, Clack said, Rabobank forecasts 4.3 to 4.4 million metric tonnes of sugar output (raw value) in 2019/20 from 31 million metric tonnes of cane.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s ‘active’ La Nina forecasts, and predictions of a 60 to 75 per cent chance of above-average rainfall across Queensland’s east coast in October also represented a potential risk to the Australian crush – late-season rainfall resulting in further delays and a drawn-out tail-end of the crush if realised.

Mr Clack said local currency strength and soft world prices would keep domestic prices in the AUD 370 to AUD 380/metric tonne range during the second half of 2020, below the AUD 430/metric tonne five-year average.

However, he said, the Far East premium was expected to remain elevated to draw imports into Asia amid a poor Thai outlook and limited 2021/22 recovery, with Thai premiums currently trading at 250 to 300 points basis against the ICE#11 Raw Sugar market.

Sweet fix for MSF Sugar stirrer

When MSF Sugar Project Engineer Mitchim Elder sought a solution to a low-grade pan sugar stirring application, the answer came through a collaborative effort between his local BSC branch in Cairns and coupling supplier, Timken.

Elder had wanted to remove the maintenance-heavy hydraulic system and simplify it with an electro-mechanical solution to reduce both maintenance costs and downtime. Integral to the process was a coupling that could transmit high torque. This goal was not only achieved but the coupling supplied continues to operate – 5 years after its installation – without Elder ever having experienced an issue with it.

“In engineering, no news is good news! It’s when components aren’t doing the job that you hear about them,” Elder enthuses. “When you install a component and it works away without a problem, that’s the solution you want and that’s been our experience with the Timken coupling.”

As one of Australia’s leading agribusinesses, MSF Sugar is a processor as well as a grower, marketer and exporter of raw sugar. The company has been operating for over 124 years, and employs around 760 people in Queensland1.

Michim Elder is the Project Engineer for the Mulgrave Central Mill which is located in Gordonvale, up in North East Queensland. It’s about a 20-minute drive to his local BSC branch in Cairns.

Elder explains that within the sugar mill operation, there are a number of low-grade pans in the process house, including one which has a stirrer application, which is viewed as a critical asset to the mill.

“This particular pan is one of three, so if we cannot get product through that pan it will hold up the whole process. It won’t stop our operation completely, but it definitely has a significant impact on production when there is downtime,” he says. “So, I took the opportunity to change out the hydraulic drive unit and put in an electric motor gearbox.”

Elder’s decision to overhaul the drive system was followed up by a conference with his BSC branch as to the design and supply of components. This involved consultation with the BSC Area Account Manager, Paul King and Sean Young, who was the North QLD Regional Sales Manager for Australian Timken at that point in time.

“There was a significant amount of consultation at the time regarding the details and design. There was a lot involved in terms of modification – particularly from the existing hydraulic motor base and trying to incorporate a solution bound to the gearbox,” explains Elder. “We actually used the existing hydraulic motor base frame and mounted the new gearbox on this together with a coupling. BSC worked with us to come up with a solution that best fit our needs.”

Sean Young recalls that the Lovejoy QF1000 QuickFlex coupling by Timken was recommended as the ideal coupling choice after a site visit.

“This was a vertical high torque application utilising a metallic gear coupling which required lubrication and was in a difficult location to easily access,” he explains. “In order to replace the gear coupling a crane had to be hired, the roof removed and the entire coupling replaced – but only once the hydraulic motor had been removed also. This was very time consuming and also affected production.”

Young and King obtained all the relevant information about the drive from Elder including the motor power, output speed, shaft dimensions and space restrictions before selecting the coupling.

As to why the Lovejoy QF1000 QuickFlex coupling by Timken is such a good fit for this application, Young breaks it down to three key features – lack of wear, accessibility and lubrication.

“It is a shear style coupling, which means once it is set up the only item that wears is the element. This is easily and quickly accessed,” he explains. “This coupling does not need to be lubricated at all – unlike the gear coupling that it replaced.”

As far as Elder is concerned, he achieved his goal of improving the efficiency of the application and reducing the amount of maintenance required by changing out the drive system. This translated to significant cost savings and would not have been achievable without his collaboration with BSC and Timken with regards to the coupling component.

“We’ve had zero issues from a maintenance perspective, and this has been in place for 5 years now without any worries,” he says. “So that’s the perfect solution. That’s what you want. And the BSC team worked with us to make it happen – it was definitely a collaborative effort.”

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Australian sugar sector remains firm despite of coronavirus pandemic

While the OPEC oil fall out and coronavirus pandemic continue to impact global sugar markets, the Australian sector remains firm thanks to an increase in projected yields and strong export prospects, but Rabobank’s latest global Sugar Quarterly warns there will be new challenges to navigate amidst this new environment.

In its Q1 report, the agricultural banking specialist said widespread rain across key cane- growing regions – up to 800mm recorded in parts of north-east Australia – had strengthened yield prospects for the incoming 2020 crush, however warned the risk of cyclones and floods still loomed.

Rabobank commodity analyst Charles Clack said the robust yield trajectory also had the potential to mitigate a decreased growing area over recent years.

“The domestic cane area fell by 11 per cent from 2017 to 2019, with Rabobank forecasting a stabilisation in area in 2020,” he said.

As such, assuming higher year-on-year (YOY) cane yields, the bank forecasts the 2020 Australian cane crop at 31 million tonnes, suggesting 4.2 million to 4.3 million tonnes in raw sugar production.

While comparative to the 4.2 million tonnes produced in 2019, Mr Clack said the figure still remained below the national five-year average.

He said the Australian industry could benefit from increased export opportunities, particularly in light of the severely-decreased 2019/20 Thai cane crop, down 40 per cent due to diminishing cane area and drought.

This, Clack said, was forecast to contribute to a 6.7 million tonne global supply deficit in 2019/20, before a return to a small surplus in 2020/21.

“Raw sugar output in Thailand is set to reach just 8.6 million tonnes, versus 15.4 million tonnes last years, allowing exports to reach just six to seven million tonnes and maintaining Thai premiums,” he said.

“We expect demand for Australian sugar to improve in 2020 amid this cut in Thai supplies, particularly as Asian buyers such as Indonesia, who rely on Thai imports, look to origins further afield.”

Clack said a drought-led fall in Indonesian 2019/20 production, coupled with a growing appetite, could also benefit both Australian and Indian exporters.

The depreciation of the Australian dollar – with the AUD/USD now standing at 0.59, down from 0.69 year to date – could also bolster export opportunities, Clack said, and had so far, to an extent, insulated the local industry against the sharp fall in world sugar prices.

In February, Thailand’s low production drove ICE #11 Raw Sugar futures soaring above the 15USc/lb, yet Mr Clack said the coronavirus threat, followed by Russia abandoning its oil supply pact with OPEC and dragging down oil prices, in turn saw sugar prices fall below 11USc/lb.

OPEC repercussions
Clack said Brazil was one key sugar producer severely impacted by the Russian and Saudi Arabian oil fall out, and could potentially shift a significant volume of production from ethanol to sugar.

Low gasoline pump prices in response to oil’s slump, coupled with a decreased demand for local fuel due to COVID-19 had resulted in Brazil’s ex-mill ethanol prices falling sharply.

“The bottom line is that millers’ ethanol revenues and margins in 2020 look very vulnerable in the face of weeks, if not months, of reduced demand plus the threat of persistently-low oil prices, and a corresponding price decrease,” he said.

The global sugar price would continue to take its lead from the oil market in the coming weeks, and Clack said any average ethanol prices reaching above a sugar equivalent of 11USc/lb would encourage a swing towards sugar production over ethanol.

Further impacts of the coronavirus crisis on consumption were difficult to predict at this stage, Clack said, with Rabobank’s initial expectations indicating a large absence of global consumption growth in 2019/20 as industries including foodservice see diminished demand prospects.

“In the EU, for example, we foresee very little sugar consumption growth, due in part to the outbreak but more so the downtrend in sugar demand,” he said.

“Interestingly, the flattening demand in the EU, and globally, may be minimised by the assumption that people tend to eat more sugary and processed foods during hard economic times.”

In China – where low acreage and yields cut 2019/20 production by up to nine per cent YOY – the negative impacts of COVID-19 on logistics and labour, leading to a delayed planting, could further decrease 2020/21 output.

Logistics bottlenecks, particularly delays in ports and borders were also expected side-effects globally, but with a prioritisation by governments on the food and agri sector, Clack said food supply chain disruptions should be minimised.

New tool for sugarcane farmers

Sugarcane farmers in far north Queensland have a new app by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, that will help them manage fertiliser use and reduce nitrogen runoff onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Currently there’s no way sugarcane growers can tell whether fertiliser has runoff from their farm but the free app, named 1622WQ, shows the concentration of nitrogen in local waterways in real time.

It means that, for the first time, they will have easy access to water quality information and can relate their management practices to water quality in local waterways, for example immediately after it’s rained.

When rainfall washes nitrogen fertiliser into waterways, it both wastes farmers’ money and becomes a major threat to the health of Great Barrier Reef ecosystems.

READ MORE: How bearings helped in the sugar cane production process

CSIRO agricultural scientist and 1622WQ project leader Dr Peter Thorburn said the new app was co-designed with farmers to meet their needs.

“Sugarcane growers told us they wanted quick and easy access to water quality information, so they could find out what’s going on with their crops and make better decisions,” Thorburn said.

“Although an app can appear simple, the smarts behind it are anything but. The chain of information between the water quality sensors in local waterways and what you see on your phone is complex and requires substantial innovation along the way.”

The app shows data on nitrate concentrations from high frequency automatic sensors deployed in selected coastal catchments.

It uses CSIRO’s advanced data analytics and state-of-the-art deep learning not available in other data delivery systems.

It also shows rainfall so farmers easily see how the weather is affecting local water quality.

Stephen Calcagno is a sugarcane grower and Chairman in the Cairns Region of the peak body, CANEGROWERS. He’s started using the app.

“This will be a great tool for farmers to see the impact of their farm management and help them improve their practises and the environment,” Calcagno said.

“I look forward to seeing what happens over the coming wet season.”

CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley said the app brought together decades of agricultural expertise and close industry relationships with advanced digital technologies.

“We’ve paired our deep domain expertise in agriculture with digital technology to provide a solution for farmers who want to remain efficient and competitive while also reducing their impact on the environment,” Foley said.

“Solving complex challenges like protecting the Great Barrier Reef require deep innovation, but it’s also important that the end result is a simple and intuitive product like this app, that farmers can seamlessly integrate into their business.”

New ways to predict water quality in the days or weeks ahead based on artificial intelligence, something that’s never been done before, are in the pipeline.

CSIRO is also building other aspects of importance to sugarcane growers into a suite of 1622 apps, such as fine-tuning which parts of a crop might need more or less fertiliser, and comparing different fertiliser application rates on crop performance and environmental impact before they even plant.

The name 1622 comes from the height of Queensland’s tallest mountain, which is in the area where the initial app development work took place. WQ is for water quality.

“Sugarcane is the first farming system we’ve looked at, but we could deploy it in any area where real time water quality data could help inform agricultural practices,” Thorburn said.

The app is being launched in Cairns on 17 January 2020 and media are invited to attend.

Drinks companies cut sugar by seven per cent

Australia’s largest beverage companies have marked a major milestone by announcing a 7 per cent reduction in sugar in the first progress report on the beverage industry’s flagship initiative.

The signatories to the pledge, Asahi Lifestyle Beverages, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coca-Cola Australia and PepsiCo Australia, have contributed to the reduction in sugar across their portfolios, and more drinks companies are expected to join in the future.

In June 2018, with the support of the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Australia’s non-alcoholic beverage industry committed to reduce sugar across the industry by 20 per cent by 2025.

KPMG has provided the first report on the industry’s progress towards the sugar reduction goal and today this has been shared with the Australian Government.

Geoff Parker, CEO, Australian Beverages Council, said, “This report is a further sign that the industry is serious about reducing sugar in beverages while continuing to offer greater choice of low-sugar drinks and many without any sugar at all.”

“The industry is achieving its intended sugar reduction targets and is already more than one third of the way towards reducing sugar by 20 per cent by 2025, but there’s still a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.

The Australian Government supports the non-alcoholic beverage industry’s progress towards a 20 per cent reduction in sugar by 2025 with Minister Hunt congratulating the industry on its progress in an announcement at Parliament House today.


“The Morrison Government supports pragmatic and appropriate action to tackle obesity, particularly through initiatives that support Australians to live healthier lives,” said Minister Hunt.


“The partnership between the industry and the Morrison Government is a clear sign that collaborative solutions are available to tackle the complex issue of obesity by encouraging healthy diets.”


The Australian Beverages Council will continue to consult widely with a range of health, industry, supplier and government stakeholders to increase understanding of the commitment.


Mr Parker said, “The non-alcoholic beverage industry invites other sectors to join the Australian Beverages Council in reducing sugar while continuing to support choice and understanding of healthy lifestyles,” added Mr Parker.


Today’s report, demonstrates the industry’s long-term commitment to reduce sugar by 20 per cent by 2025, complements a national obesity strategy, encourages all Australians to live healthier lives and reflects our contribution to combat obesity.


Plant proteins hot but meat’s not off the menu

People love plants. With their “naturally functional” halo, consumers of all ages want to eat more of them – and in more convenient forms. From cauliflower pizza to beetroot bread, plant-based is a trend that’s growing for the long term.

But people also love meat. Despite vocal attacks on meat’s health and sustainability credentials, which made it look as if the meat category was set for long-term decline, consumption has increased in both the US and in Europe in recent years.

“Consumers’ perception of meat as a tasty and high-quality protein is driving the reinvention of meat and will secure its permanent place on the plate, and as a snack,” says Julian Mellentin, a consultant to the food and beverage industry and author of the report 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2020. This annual trend analysis identifies – for the first time – Meat as a growth opportunity, alongside Plant-based.

“People want plants, but we’re not all turning into vegans,” says Mellentin. “In a world where consumers hold fragmented beliefs, there’s room for both plants and meat.”

“With plant-based is getting all the attention, and meat under attack, creative meat producers are taking steps to reinvent their category, for example with sustainability, provenance and convenience,” he adds. For example, US sales of meat snacks grew 6.7% in 2019 to $4.5 billion (IRI).

READ MORE: Burcon to build $70 million pea and canola protein production plant

And Nielsen data shows that meat brands that communicate about provenance, sustainability and animal welfare are growing fast and earning premium prices. US sales of meat with health or environmental claims are growing rapidly, led by “organic” up 13.1 per cent and “grass-fed” up 12.2 per cent.

It’s a transformation that will be welcomed by consumers, who love to hear that something they enjoy is also good for them – as happened with red wine and chocolate. And they’re particularly receptive right now to positive messages about meat, says Mellentin, thanks to the influence of other key consumer trends identified in the report, including protein, lower-carb and the rebirth of fat.

Consuming fewer carbs – which by definition means eating more fat and/or protein, often in the form of meat – is growing in popularity, fueled by diet patterns such as keto. And low-carb eating is now legitimized by science. The American Diabetes Association recommends low-carb eating to fight diabetes and for weight management, and low-carbing is being adopted by doctors in the UK.

Fear of the ultimate ‘bad carb’ – sugar – is now mainstream. A massive 80 per cent of US consumers say they are limiting or avoiding sugar in their diets, and there are similar levels of concern in Europe and South America.

It’s a reflection of the fragmentation of consumer beliefs that, alongside a growing demand for low-carb products, honest indulgence is also a big growth driver: “In the midst of the focus on health and nutrition, let’s not forget that most people buy bakery products for pure pleasure,” adds Mellentin. “Natural ingredients, Provenance and great taste all matter more than nutrition.”

Many cereals and granolas are discovering that they can gain sales by using inulin in order to offer consumers low-sugar products that also benefit digestive wellness. The Troo Granola brand in the UK, for example, uses inulin syrup in its products because it serves both as a prebiotic and a sweetener, giving a more appealing taste to consumers while keeping sugar content down.

These twin benefits have caused demand for inulin to surge – the number of products launched that feature inulin doubled between 2012 and 2019.

The 10 Key Trends identified in the report are:

  1. Digestive Wellness
  2. Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
  3. Plant-based
  4. Protein
  5. Sugar – Reinventing Sweetness
  6. Rebirth of Fat
  7. Meat Reimagined
  8. Provenance and Authenticity
  9. Energy 2.0
  10. Mood

And there are four “Mega Trends” that are a must-do for all companies in all categories:

  1. Naturally Functional
  2. Fragmentation
  3. Snackification
  4. Sustainability

‘Sweet’ culture reduces added sugar in fermented dairy products

Health organisations, governments and retailers are setting objectives to reduce sugar in foods while consumers are increasingly focusing on sugar content, looking for healthy and natural products that taste great. This means dairy manufacturers are experiencing pressure to reduce added sugar in their products, especially in yogurt.

“Dairy manufacturers often add sugar to their products to compensate for the taste of post acidification, finding the right balance between sweet and sour. With our new patented culture, post acidification is very low, which reduces the need for added sugar,” says Jessica Bentley, commercial development manager, Fresh Dairy at Chr. Hansen.

Sweety Y-1 is an innovative culture solution allowing the natural creation of sweetness by unlocking milk’s own resource – lactose.

“Using what is naturally available in milk and applying our expertise in culture application, we have developed a culture that will enable a sweeter taste than other cultures can,” explains Kim Soerensen, senior principal scientist in strains, Bacterial Physiology at Chr. Hansen.

Sweety Y-1 is a culture solution using Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus cultures. It can convert the existing sugars in milk, using more of the lactose and yielding glucose – which provides a greater sweetness intensity. This means you can add less sugar and still get the same sweet-tasting product, resulting in a healthier product offering.

With Sweety Y-1, Chr. Hansen brings a groundbreaking innovation to the dairy market. The culture enables manufacturers to meet modern market trends and consumer demands for healthy food by reducing added sugar without compromising the good taste of the product.

“Sweety Y-1 is a mild culture with superior pH stability. This enables dairy manufacturers to create products that maintain sweetness throughout shelf life. As the first and only company to launch such a solution, we expect a lot of interest and are excited to engage with our customers,” Bentley said.

Using Sweety Y-1 cultures in the production of fermented dairy foods enables dairy producers to:
• Enhance sweetness by converting the existing sugar in milk
• Maintain the sweet taste during shelf life with very low post acidification
• Create natural and clean label products without the use of artificial sweeteners

Demand increases for artificial sweetener

Prevalence of various disorders such as obesity and diabetes has led to surge in demand for food products with low sugar content. In addition, growing need for weight management is projected to impact the global market growth of artificial sweeteners positively. Report states that the global market of artificial sweeteners is projected to reflect a CAGR of 4.7 per cent over the forecast period, 2017-2026.

Factors Fuelling Growth of the Global Market
Growth of the global artificial sweeteners market are mainly bound by various macro-economic and micro-economic factors. As prevalence of disorders such as obesity and diabetes continue to remain on the rise, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly focusing on offering food products with low sugar content. In addition, changing consumption and spending patterns of the customers is projected to reflect positively towards demand for the artificial sweeteners globally. As customers are becoming more aware about the health benefitting food products, the leading food and beverage companies are concentrating on producing fat-free and diabetic friendly food products to expand their customer base.

Sales of artificial sweeteners is projected to remain concentrated in the beverage industry. In order to cater to the increasing demand for fat-free and sugar-free products, the major food and beverage companies are focusing on offering beverage products that have low sugar content such as diet coke. As customers are increasingly following diet plans for weight management, preference for consumption of beverage products with low or no sugar-content is projected to remain high. Preference for healthy, fat-free and sugar-free food products is projected to rev up demand for artificial sweeteners in the global market during the forecast period.

However, various factors are projected to pose significant challenges for growth of the global market growth of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are projected to record significant demand during production of aerated drinks such as soft drinks. As customers are becoming more health conscious, preference for healthy beverages such as natural fruit juices are projected to increase. Drop in sales for soft drinks in North America and Europe attributed to changing consumer patterns is projected to inhibit the global market growth of artificial sweeteners positively. Moreover, various artificial sweetener products such as Aspartame, Saccharin and Sucralose have carcinogenic properties, which can affect the customer’s health adversely. Bound to these factors, artificial sweeteners are projected to witness decline in demand over the forecast period.

Sales to Remain High in Food and Beverage Industry
As the need for sweet and low calorie food product is projected to remain high, demand for artificial sweeteners such as aspartame is likely to increase among the food manufacturers. In terms of revenue, the aspartame product type segment is projected to witness the highest growth, recording more than $9,260 Mn by 2026-end. On the other hand, the sucralose product type segment is projected to reflect a healthy CAGR over the forecast period. By end users, the food and beverage segment is projected to register significant revenue growth, representing for a value of over $12,822 Mn by 2017-end. In contrary, the pharmaceuticals end users segment is projected to reflect the fastest growth in the global market of artificial sweeteners throughout 2026.

By 2026-end, the beverage application segment is projected to significant growth in terms of revenue, recording more than $5,700 Mn. On the other hand, the bakery goods application segment is projected to witness a healthy CAGR over the forecast period.

Govt goes into bat for Australian sugar industry

The Australian Government, together with Brazil, has launched formal dispute action in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on India’s continuing sugar subsidies that are depressing world prices and impacting on our highly productive and globally competitive sugar industry.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, said India’s sugar subsidy regime was inconsistent with WTO rules and had helped create a glut in the global sugar market.

“The…government continues to stand side-by-side with our sugar industry on this matter,” Minister Birmingham said

“This glut is hurting Australia’s canegrowers and millers, and is threatening our $1.8 billion sugar export industry by dragging down prices to unsustainable lows.

“While Australia respects the rights of WTO members to support their farmers and agricultural industries, this support must be consistent with WTO rules and provide a level playing field.

“Australia always seeks to resolve its concerns outside of the WTO’s dispute system, and our numerous representations to India at the highest levels and in the WTO have been consistent with this approach.

“Unfortunately, our representations, and those of other sugar exporting countries, have so far been unsuccessful. This has left us with no other choice but to initiate formal WTO dispute action, together with Brazil.

“Australia maintains a very good relationship with India, both economically and strategically, and it is perfectly normal for even close friends and partners to avail themselves of WTO mechanisms from time-to-time to resolve trade issues.”

Minister Littleproud and Assistant Minister Coulton joined with Minister Birmingham in acknowledging the work the Canegrowers and the Australian Sugar Milling Council have done in preparing to launch this WTO action.

“Our industry relies heavily on exports, sending roughly 85 per cent of its raw sugar into the world market,” Minister Littleproud said.

“These subsidies are hitting our farmers and millers, and I’m pleased we’re exercising our WTO rights and asking for an even playing field.”

Assistant Minister Coulton said the sugar industry made a great contribution to jobs and the economy in regional Australia and the Liberal-National Government would continue to stand up for these communities.

“This action being taken by the Government demonstrates our commitment to protecting the interests of our hard-working canegrowers and sugar millers, and to the rules-based international trading system that underpins the viability of our vital export industries,” Assistant Minister Coulton said.

Sugar produced from insect-protected sugarcane, as safe as sugar produced from conventional sugarcane

The United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded recently that raw and refined sugar produced from Brazil’s first genetically-modified sugarcane variety, called CTC20BT, is safe.

The US FDA focused its safety assessment on sugar, because it is the main sugarcane-derived product imported to the US from Brazil.

In addition to sugar refining, the Brazilian sugarcane sector uses sugarcane by products domestically to produce ethanol fuel for vehicles and to burn to generate electricity.

Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira submitted information and studies to FDA that showed that sugar produced from the insect-protected sugarcane was as safe as sugar produced from conventional sugarcane.

READ: New sugarcane nutrition manual provides the A to Z of growing a healthy crop

The insect-protected sugarcane was developed by Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira – a company focused on improving sugarcane varieties and technologies in Brazil.

The data also showed that the highly refined sugar was compositionally identical to sugar produced from conventional varieties.

The recent US FDA approval followed a similar approval for sugar from Health Canada earlier this year.

The sugarcane was first approved for cultivation in Brazil by CTNBio – Brazil’s National Biosafety Technical Committee, in June 2017, following a detailed review process.

The new variety developed by Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, produces the Cry1Ab Bt protein to establish resistance to the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis), a major destructive pest in Brazil that causes damage and loss estimated at $1 billion a-year.

The Bt protein found in CTC20BT, has a long history of safe use and has been used widely in global agriculture for more than 20 years in biotechnology-derived crops like maize, and cotton, among others.

The FDA is the US government agency responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, as well as the efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices.

Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira is a 100 per cent national company focused on research, development, and marketing of varieties of sugarcane and other disruptive technologies.

It has as shareholders the BNDESPar and the main groups of the sugar-ethanol sector, representing more than 60 per cent of the production of sugar and ethanol in Brazil.

Drinks companies unite to reduce sugar across the industry

Australia’s major beverage companies have joined forces today to announce an historic commitment to reduce sugar across the industry.

The commitment to reduce sugar across the industry by 20 per cent by 2025 has been made by the Australian Beverages Council, the peak body representing the non-alcoholic beverages industry, whose members include Coca-Cola South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil, PepsiCo, Asahi Beverages and Frucor Suntory, among others.

The commitment applies to all categories of non-alcoholic drinks represented by Members of the Australian Beverages Council who have signed the pledge, including: carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, sports and electrolyte drinks, frozen drinks, bottled and packaged waters, juice and fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, ready-to-drink coffees, flavoured milk products and flavoured plant milks.

“Australia’s non-alcoholic beverage industry is serious about supporting healthier lifestyles,” said Geoff Parker, CEO, Australian Beverages Council.


“That’s why leading beverage companies in Australia have united for the first time to commit to reducing sugar across the industry by 20 per cent on average by 2025.”

The beverage sector has an important role to play in helping Australians to reduce their sugar consumption and we encourage other food and beverage categories to take similar action on this issue in Australia.’

“This commitment is the first example in Australia where an industry as a whole has self-regulated its use of sugar in this manner,” added Parker.

The Australian Government welcomed the beverage industry’s sugar reduction pledge, with the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, endorsing the commitment in an announcement at Parliament House today.

“The Turnbull Government supports considered and appropriate action to tackle obesity, and encourages all Australians to live healthier lives,’ said Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP.

“Today’s sugar reduction commitment by the non-alcoholic beverages sector is a clear sign that industry is taking additional steps to support our initiatives to maintain a healthy diet and to lead an active life.”

“It is particularly important that the industry has worked constructively with a number of farming and agricultural groups, particularly those in the sugarcane growing industry ahead of this announcement,” added Minister Hunt.

A review of the pledge will be evaluated by an independent auditor in two components: a 10 per cent reduction by 2020 and a total of 20 per cent by 2025. The auditing process and commitments are based on annual sales weighted volume data as of 1 January 2016. The auditor will certify individual company portfolios confidentially to assess progress and contribution to the industry’s pledge. Details of the appointment of an auditor will be announced in the coming months.

“All stakeholders, including the Government, expect us to critically evaluate this initiative. We intend to ensure a rigorous and continuous independent review process through to 2025 to ensure all signatories contribute to the industry’s commitment to reduce sugar,” Parker said.

The Australian Beverages Council has engaged with a range of health, industry, supplier and government stakeholders over the last two years in considering this pledge. The non-alcoholic beverages industry will continue to consult widely to build understanding and support for the commitment.

“The beverage industry has united to announce this bold initiative and to play its part in improving the health of all Australians. The announcement sends a clear message that industry is responding to calls for change and we will continue to do our bit to help tackle obesity,” said Parker.


Dairy farming to bounce back, while sugar set to drop in 2018 – research

IBISWorld’s business information analysts have revealed the top five Australian industries expected to grow and shrink in 2017-18, and food sectors have made it onto both lists.

According to the research, this should be the year the Dairy Cattle Farming industry bounces back.  Following a year of low prices and depressed milk production, conditions have begun to stabilise, while demand and returns for domestic dairy products is rising.

“With the Australian dollar projected to depreciate this year, we anticipate local dairy products will become more competitive in export markets, boosting returns to domestic milk processors, which will then flow through to dairy cattle farmers. We’re also expecting an increase in the size of the national dairy cattle herd, which will drive up milk volumes, and contribute to an expected 8.0% increase in revenue in 2017-18,” said IBISWorld Senior Industry Analyst William McGregor.

However, things are not looking as positive for sugar manufacturers. An expected oversupply in global sugar markets is tipped to drive sugar prices down this year, with IBISWorld forecasting revenue for sugar manufacturers to decline by 12.5 per cent.

“Domestic sugar output is projected to decline this year following the bumper crops of 2016-17, and with two-thirds of Australian sugar destined for export markets, global conditions – including consumption not matching production growth – will contribute to revenue declines for local sugar millers,” said McGregor.

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Healthy eating for shift workers

Working the graveyard shift or even pulling an all-nighter is an everyday reality for many employees in industries like entertainment, healthcare, security or transportation. This can be challenging for anyone. It is also hard to feel revitalized or rested enough to head back to work the next day – not to mention doing it again and again in shift work. So it is no wonder some describe the feeling like ‘a zombie chasing a caffeine drip’.

Although many shift workers say that they are used to working overnight, staying awake and inverting sleep patterns can lead to a number of negative consequences in the long run. In fact, it is common for shift workers to get shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)[1], which is characterized by insomnia. SWSD sufferers may constantly feel tired even when they have had enough time to rest. They are also more prone to making mistakes and causing accidents

Furthermore, night shift workers tend to turn to convenient food options (e.g., chocolate bars, sugary cupcakes) when they need an energy boost to stay alert and get them through the wee hours of the morning. However, such snacks may not provide enough nutrition or the healthy energy that someone staying up late often would need.

Yes, reaching for a night snack, especially a sweetened one, can help to offer a quick energy boost but it may also be bringing on precisely the kind of lethargic feeling that the night shift workers are trying to avoid. This is because sweet confectionary products, including cakes, chocolates and cookies, tend to contain a high ratio of conventional sugars and thus high glycaemic carbohydrates – the main culprits of the energy spikes and crashes.

It is especially important for shift workers, who already have to endure demanding sleep patterns, to eat healthily. Christian Philippsen, Managing Director for BENEO in Asia Pacific, explores how food manufacturers can cater to consumers seeking healthier snack options – snack food that provides sustained energy release without the subsequent energy crash.

Crashing from a sugar high

Many confectionery products are sugar laden and highly processed. They also often carry a large amount of high glycaemic carbohydrates that are digested very quickly, resulting in a fast and high release of glucose – the body’s main energy supply – into the bloodstream, thus causing an energy ‘spike’.

For night shift workers, these sugar spikes cause their blood glucose and insulin levels to rise, leading to an initial energy ‘boost’. However, these glucose stores are quickly depleted, causing a drop in blood glucose levels even below baseline, which translates to an energy ‘crash’, which is the sluggish feeling that people often feel after a meal.


Consumers choosing to eat healthier

 The benefits of all things healthy is impacting the consumer market in ways that could only be imagined a decade ago. Consumers these days are making an effort to eat healthier either to look or feel better or for health reasons. According to a Nielsen study, 60 percent[2] of consumers in Asia Pacific are choosing to eat less sugar and 54 percent are opting for more fresh or natural food.

Avoiding the ‘sugar crash’

Successful food manufacturers in tune with the market are offering consumers healthier options in view of demand trends. They are designing products that are suitable for low glycaemic dietary plans by incorporating functional carbohydrates such as BENEO´s Palatinose (generic name: isomaltulose), which can be used to fully or partially replace sucrose or other high glycaemic carbohydrates, for slower energy release.

Palatinose has a unique physiological profile that helps support healthy nutrition – especially with regards to blood glucose management. Although Palatinose is classified as a sugar, it has a special molecular structure that enables it to be seen as a “good” sugar.  Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is hydrolysed four to five times more slowly by the enzymes in our small intestine as compared to high glycaemic sugars, yet it provides the body with the full amount of energy (4kcal/g).    This results in a low glycaemic sugar that is fully digestible – thus making it ideal for providing sustained energy with gentler blood sugar levels that provide long-term benefits for glucose control, body composition and weight management.

Palatinose can be easily incorporated into various types of food and drinks. Derived from natural beet sugar, it has a sugar-like, mildly sweet taste and can be used in the development of a wide range of great tasting and healthy snack products, from cereals and baked goods, to dairy products and sports and energy drinks.

Getting through the graveyard shift

 Working the night shift is definitely not an easy task, and it can be one of the most challenging experiences when people have to do it for a long period of time. Nevertheless, we will continue to need shift workers, especially in today’s urbanising society and having cities that never sleep.

Shift workers need to get enough rest in the off hours, and watch what they eat. Food products that allow for slow, sustained energy release – such as those made with Palatinose and low in high glycaemic carbohydrates – are ideal. This way they help avoid the consequences of the extreme blood sugar peaks and dips, and can provide access to sustained energy release mechanisms and improved metabolic balance. Palatinose equips food manufacturers with the opportunity to formulate innovative snacks that not only taste great, but provide consumers with a healthier energy source.

[1] Shift work sleep disorder – WebMD

[1] We are what we eat – The Nielsen Company, 2015

Sugar Research Australia releases performance report

Sugar Research Australia (SRA) has released a comprehensive report on its performance for the 2016/17 financial year, with this publication explaining how SRA has delivered return on investment for its industry and government investors.

In releasing the new 2016/17 Performance Report, SRA CEO Mr Neil Fisher said that SRA was committed to keeping all investors, research partners, collaborators and other stakeholders informed regarding the value that is provided by SRA.

“Our annual Performance Report details the achievements of SRA and how they align to our Annual Operational Plans and our five-year Strategic Plan,” Mr Fisher said. “We continue to enhance this annual publication with more robust, quantifiable and meaningful data that articulates how SRA is creating impacts and outcomes for sugarcane growers and millers.”

For example, the Performance Report outlines that in the last year the harvesters of 14 sugarcane harvesting groups have been optimised in line with SRA’s harvesting best practice recommendations, increasing shared industry value through reduced sugar loss.

Another example from 2016/17 includes the SRA diagnostics laboratories analysing over 1000 pachymetra, 150 nematode, and 20,000 ratoon stunting disease samples to support industry pest and disease management and limit these diseases’ impact on profitability.

SRA is also delivering sustainability outcomes through innovative research and adoption projects that are creating water quality outcomes through improved nutrient management and nutrient efficiency.

This includes innovative research such as the incorporation of climate forecasting into decision tools to improve tactical on-farm application of nutrients and to reduce nutrient losses.

“Our Performance Report aligns with the conclusion of our first Strategic Plan, and we look forward to continuing to report on our outcomes and impacts against our new Strategic Plan for 2017/18 to 2021/22.”

SRA is the industry-owned company for research, development and adoption for the Australian sugarcane industry.

“SRA has listened to our investors and their need for us to demonstrate how we are providing value,” Mr Fisher said. “Our new Strategic Plan has set this out with the four goals of: driving profitability; improving sustainability; enhancing capability; and strengthening organisational excellence.

“The bottom line is that our grower and miller investors want more dollars in their back pocket.

“Our Performance Report is one tool we use to communicate how SRA is delivering for our investors against these overarching goals.”

Sweeter deal for Australian sugar exports to Indonesia

Indonesia has implemented its earlier agreement to reduce tariffs on the import of Australian raw sugar, strengthening opportunities for Australia’s $2.2 billion sugar export industry.

In February 2017, Prime Minister Turnbull and Indonesian President Widodo reached agreement to each reduce tariffs on a key commodity as a mark of progress towards the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) currently under negotiation.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the reduction in tariffs would increase the competiveness of Australian sugar exports into the important Indonesian market.

“Indonesia will lower the tariff on our sugar exports to the same concessional rate enjoyed by Thailand – around 5 per cent currently – which will level the playing field for our exporters,” Minister Joyce said.

“This is great news for our sugar industry, but it also demonstrates the strong trade relationship we share with Indonesia.

“It will ensure better returns for our exporters through improved market access, while also ensuring Indonesia can continue to have access to the world-class produce we are known for.”

Indonesia will reduce tariffs on the import of Australian raw sugar and Australia will eliminate import duties on Indonesian herbicides and pesticides.

Call for Government to take action on obesity

Thirty-four leading community, public health, medical and academic groups have today united for the first time to call for urgent Federal Government action to address Australia’s serious obesity problem.

In the ground-breaking new action plan, Tipping the Scales, the agencies identify eight clear, practical, evidence-based actions the Australian Federal Government must take to reduce the enormous strain excess weight and poor diets are having on the nation’s physical and economic health.

Led by the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) and Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE), Tipping the Scales draws on national and international recommendations to highlight where action is required.

Areas nominate include time-based restrictions on TV junk food advertising to kids, the introduction of a 20% health levy on sugary drinks, and establishing a national obesity taskforce.

OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin said the eight definitive policy actions in Tipping the Scales addressed the elements of Australia’s environment which set individuals and families up for unhealthy lifestyles, rather than just focusing on treating the poor health outcomes associated with obesity.

“Sixty-three per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of our children are overweight or obese. This is not surprising when you look at our environment – our kids are bombarded with advertising for junk food, high-sugar drinks are cheaper than water, and sugar and saturated fat are hiding in so-called ‘healthy’ foods. Making a healthy choice has never been more difficult,” Martin said.

Professor of Epidemiology and Equity in Public Health at Deakin University, Anna Peeters, said the 34 groups behind the report were refusing to let governments simply sit back and watch as growing numbers of Australians developed life-threatening weight and diet-related health problems.

“For too long we have been sitting and waiting for obesity to somehow fix itself. In the obesogenic environment in which we live, this is not going to happen. In fact, if current trends continue, there will be approximately 1.75 million deaths in people over the age of 20 years caused by diseases linked to overweight and obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer heart disease, between 2011-20501,” Professor Peeters said.

Ensuring pH control in sugar refineries through automation

A solution from Alvi Technologies is helping sugar refining plants ensure efficient processing through proper pH control.

The sugar refining process begins with the extraction of juice from sugarcane and sugar beet. The juice is then purified by passing it through several processes in the refining plant, during which the solution is adjusted several times to achieve stabilisation, separation and dehydration.

Liming, carbonation and the addition of sulphur dioxide are the three critical stages of the entire process. For complete and efficient processing, pH control is very crucial during these three critical stages. Sugar refining involves severe process conditions such as very high pressure and temperature as well as fluctuating pH levels. When the pH is not accurately maintained, the operation runs the risk of potential losses due to a failed batch.

It’s important for the sugar refinery to select and use the correct pH sensor that is able to withstand these harsh process conditions without affecting the accuracy. The pH sensor also needs to be cleaned several times.

Alvi’s solution addresses all of these issues while measuring and controlling pH. The Ceramat WA150 sensor lock gate together with Unical 9000 automatic cleaning and calibration system allows complete automation of this difficult measuring point with maximum availability.

New research ideas sought to benefit Australian sugarcane industry

Sugar Research Australia (SRA) is seeking new and innovative research ideas that will help improve the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of Australian sugarcane growers and millers.

SRA CEO Mr Neil Fisher said that SRA was seeking innovative research concepts that align with SRA’s newly developed five-year Strategic Plan.

“If you have an innovating research concept with the potential to deliver identified Outcomes to a practical problem that has been identified by the industry, SRA would like to hear from you,” Mr Fisher said.

SRA is inviting applications for potential new research projects that would begin from July 1, 2018.

“Our Strategic Plan has been created in consultation with our investors and is focused on delivering profitability, productivity, and sustainability outcomes for the Australian sugarcane industry.

“Our Strategic Plan is underpinned by the four overarching goals of driving profitability, improving sustainability, enhancing capability, and strengthening organisational excellence.

“We encourage researchers to submit their best and brightest ideas. We also strongly encourage ideas that have been developed in consultation with industry.”

SRA will preferentially invest in prioritised research investment opportunities identified across each KFA (Key Focus Area).

More information on the 2018 Project Call and the Strategic Plan is available from SRA.