Perhaps it’s the optimism of spring, but it just might be that the sugar industry is standing on the precipice of a new, more modern future. There’s the opportunity for change, at least for those willing to see the opportunities that could come from a fresh perspective and a more inclusive way of doing business.
With this week’s news of UNICA chief Marcos Jank’s imminent departure, the “silly season” (as election time in the US is known) may soon be on the horizon. But there’s also the opportunity to bring in new leadership across not only the Brazilian, but also the global, sugar industry forward in terms of better ways to produce, and introduce more efficient ways to process and transport and trade.
In essence, create a more sustainable industry—economically, environmentally and socially—going into the future. There’s little chance of success if we leave it for the status quo, consumers and farmers alike just won’t stand for it.
The view is too narrow if you just look at UNICA as it prepares for this major upheaval. ASSUC is also getting ready to elect, or re-elect, its new president to lead the European sugar industry forward, while preparations are no doubt under way for the future of the ISO as long-time executive director Peter Baron prepares for his retirement in the next year.
CAP reform in Europe is at hand, the Farm Bill is heading to Congress in the US and the elimination of the Sugar Program is clearly in the sites of Republicans. La Niña is here, Brazil is reforming its policies on almost a daily basis, Russia wants to export and China needs to import.
While that sounds like a whole lot of change all at once, it poses many opportunities as well. How Jank was able to modernise UNICA is apparent in so many ways, from its political successes in the American political arena to its expanded global presence, all fundamental if it wishes to implement a truly global ethanol market has it has preached about for so long.
What’s left for the next leader, the next generation as it were, to lead the organisation forward so it can best place its industry for growth?
In Europe, what more can ASSUC do to have an impact on European sugar policy during EU reform, and going forward? It must do more than bring people together twice a year, it has to become more relevant in the debate on a European, and on a global, level. How can it have an influence in a future market that may very well have no sugar production quotas?
On the global level, the ISO has been a cornerstone of the industry, with a clear mission and position doing its best to juggle the needs and wants of a massively diverse membership. It is safe, stable and dependable, but it could be and should be so much more. With a clearer focus on driving a research and innovation agenda, acting as a voice for the global industry while providing a true platform for negotiation and collaboration, a modern ISO that participates in a global world using global communication—web, twitter, and beyond, could become a much more relevant part of the industry’s daily life, adding value in ways never before imagined.
So where are these leaders hiding? These leaders with the industry know-how, knowledge and understanding, the connections, the vision and purpose to bring around gradual but steady change in an industry that prides itself on remaining one of the last bastions of industry-bound brotherhood.
Someone, somewhere must be ready to break out from the mold and take the reins of these organisations to prepare them for the changes that are coming and the changes that are already under way.
But today the sun is shining in London and tomorrow it is meant to be cold and gray. The opportunities for real substantive change industry-wide come so rarely, that if we wait too long, the mood in the industry could change just as quickly as the weather.