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Clarence Valley’s mayor, Jim Simmons (centre), worked in the sugar industry from July 1975 to 1988. He was general secretary of the Clarence and NSW canegrowers associations. He would attend the board meetings of the 16 co-operatives in the Northern Rivers each month. (l-r) Clarence Valley Council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, Maclean Chamber of Commerce president Peter Gordon, Jim Simmons, Clarence Canegrowers Association president Ross Farlow and the association’s general manager, Brendan Reeves. Image: Geoff Helisma

New office, new low GI future for canegrowers

Geoff Helisma | The refurbishment of the Clarence Canegrowers Association’s office in River Street, Maclean, flags a new era for the local sugar industry – along with the new colour scheme, comes an attitude attuned to what lies ahead. “We have a big presence in the Clarence Valley and certainly in the Northern Rivers,” says Ross Farlow, chair of the Clarence Canegrowers Association and president of the NSW Canegrowers Council. “We needed to do some internal renovations to the building, to go forward with professional, modern technology and thinking. “This office refurbishment – we are very proud of it – will see us through for the next 30 or 40 years.” The association has a new manager, too, Brendan Reeves, who has been at the helm for the past seven months. Previously, Mr Reeves worked in agribusiness banking for 30 years; he is also manager of the executive office of the NSW Canegrowers Council. “I grew up in regional Queensland mostly,” he said. “I bring a different perspective, to help [make] progress in terms of modernising the industry and updating processes.” In light of rising evidence that sugar is exacerbating obesity and various calls to implement a sugar tax, the NSW sugar industry has developed low GI (glycaemic index) sugar, or ‘Nucane™’. “Both sides of politics have been on the Clarence – we’ve sat in a room with them – and none of those politicians have an appetite for a sugar tax,” Mr Farlow said. “That’s interesting, but truthful.” Sunshine Sugar, which is a partnership between the grower-owned NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative and the Australian-owned Manildra Group, developed the Nucane process. The brainchild of Dr David Kannar of the Nutrition Innovation Group, the technology, which is used at the sugar milling stage, “produces a sugar that retains naturally occurring and beneficial antioxidants”, the Sunshine Sugar website states. “… [It] is more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised – resulting in a lower and slower rise in blood glucose.” “What the team here have invented is a potential game changer for world health,” Nutrition Innovation’s CEO, Matthew Godfrey, said. “Nucane is aimed at helping to combat the global obesity and diabetes epidemic, via partnerships between sugar mills and brands, to increase healthier options for consumers worldwide. “It can be used in all forms of food and beverages.” Mr Farlow said his organisation is “very proud” of the new product. “It’s a healthier kind of sugar that we are going to promote,” he said, “and that’s the way our business will head in the future.” Mr Farlow thanked builder Tony McFarlane for coordinating the renovation. “He sourced all local contractors,” Mr Farlow said. “We’re a local business using local suppliers and tradespeople.”