GROWER groups have acknowledged the need for sustainability accreditation to keep lucrative canola markets to Europe open but have questioned whether the schemes being used are a suitable fit for the Australian industry.
Australian canola exporters are asking growers to sign up to the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), a voluntary sustainability certification scheme.
It is not compulsory, nor are there sustainable and non-sustainable canola segregations on offer at delivery, but most major exporters require growers to sign up so they can access the higher returns that come with European Union (EU) sales.
This is the second season it has been used, under the auspices of Sustainable Grain Australia (SGA), which runs the scheme locally.
It replaces individual sustainability arrangements exporters had to export to the EU.
Brett Hosking, GrainGrowers chairman said while there had not been widespread backlash to the scheme from growers it was onerous for those that did get audited.
"It is meant to work out at around one in a hundred growers, so for those that have just had to sign up there is not much to it, but the process if you are audited does require a lot of work and not all of it seems to be directly linked with guaranteeing sustainability," Mr Hosking said.
"There is a lot of time-consuming requirements relating to employees and bank records, which is probably covered by other bits of Australian law anyway, we'd certainly prefer to see it focused more with matters directly relating to sustainability," he said.
Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said while it was good for the industry to participate in a voluntary scheme rather than have something mandated, he felt the ISCC model was not fit for purpose in Australia.
"Not only is there requirements more geared to third world countries in terms of employee rights and fairly intrusive requests in relation to the farm's financials but some of the agronomic stuff in there is not as relevant due to the way we crop," Mr Weidemann said.
He said the need to demonstrate sustainability credentials and to be able to demonstrate lowering carbon emissions was important but said a better method needed to be found.
"There is a lot of points included there that are in line with farming systems where there are big issues with fertiliser run off into waterways and not the way things run here in our low rainfall zones," he said.
"We know the industry has come up with this framework to help us continue to do business in Europe but we feel this should be the start of the sustainability accreditation process here rather than where we stay permanently."
Nick Goddard, Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) said the system was working well from a logistical perspective.
"It is going well according to the exporters and with biodiesel demand Europe is a massive market for our crop," he said.
Mr Goddard said with high canola prices and subsoil moisture already through eastern Victoria and parts of NSW it was likely that more of the oilseed would be planted next year.
"It is good to have as many marketing options as possible."
And the reality of the fact sustainability will have to be addressed was borne out in recent moves by the EU parliament.
European Members of Parliament (MEPs) voted last week to place a carbon price on imports on countries with less ambitious climate management schemes in place.
The price will be designed to minimise what the EU describes as 'carbon leakage', and to stop EU production being moved to non-EU countries that have less ambitious emissions rules.
However, both Mr Weidemann said the real aims of schemes such as the ISCC / SGA model, were not being addressed as it currently stood.
"There are issues in that there are not separate segregations for canola produced under the scheme rules and there are opportunities missed to demonstrate exactly what we're doing to reduce emissions and to be more sustainable."
Mr Weidemann also said it was hard for farmers to gauge how much value they were getting from the scheme financially as there were not separate prices such as those in place for genetically modified (GM) and non-GM product.