Agribusiness & Food

Canegrowers chairman to retire

Paul Schembri will retire as Chairman of Queensland sugar cane farmer advocacy group, Canegrowers.

Schembri first joined a local growers’ committee as a 23-year-old in 1983 and has served in a range of Canegrowers roles while running a farm in the Mackay region with his brother.

He has been the Chairman since 2013, during which period he also served as Chairman of the Australian Cane Growers Council. He is currently Vice-President of the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers.

Schembri, who decided not to run for re-election in 2022, said today’s sugar industry is unrecognisable from the one he joined in the 1980s, having evolved through crippling low sugar prices, rapid expansion, deregulation and, in recent years, the drive to meet community and government expectations of environmental responsibility.

“The great opportunity that I had was to start so young,” Schembri said. “It’s a great privilege to represent growers on the state, national and international stage.

“The industry has been here for over 150 years, we’re one of the oldest, most mature industries in Australia and we will continue to adapt.

“World sugar prices are currently strong and Australian cane growers are well positioned to demonstrate our environmental credentials as some of the most environmentally sustainable farmers in the world.

“Challenges will come and go but if we stay united and get our voice out there, we will have a bright future.”

Schembri is looking forward to spending more time farming.

“I felt it was a good time for me to retire and a good time for the organisation to reset. Renewal is a great thing,” he said.

A meeting in May of the new Canegrowers Policy Council will vote on the next Chairman of the organisation.

Canegrowers Dan Galligan said Schembri’s passion and dedication to working for growers had made an enormous impact on the industry and the Canegrowers organisation over the past four decades.

“Paul’s impact on the culture of Canegrowers has been profound,” Galligan said.

“He has brought about a sharpened focus to how we consider and service our members with passion and integrity. Through his work he has gained respect from growers on the international, national, state and local stage.

“Paul’s positive and collaborative approach has inspired many people. He should be very proud of his contribution and the industry should be very grateful for his service.”

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