President Rousseff suggests discussing investment opportunities with sugarcane industry
|Presidente Rousseff proposing new dialogue with sector
(Photo Ricardo Stuckert Filho / SECOM)
"The sugarcane industry is going through an adjustment phase that requires an increase in the level of investment, and we will discuss that at our next meeting." The suggestion was made by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during a speech to more than 600 guests in Brasilia on June 14, when 169 sugarcane processing mills that signed on to the National Commitment to Enhance Working Conditions in the Sugarcane Industry received “Committed Company” certificates.
"Brazil has already proved that it can produce and deliver ethanol 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Thanks to ethanol, we have one of the most renewable energy matrixes in the world," stressed Rousseff. The adoption of best labor practices approved by the National Commitment was verified by independent auditors at all companies that received certificates.
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) was represented at the event by Board Chairman Pedro Parente. In his speech, he highlighted the quality of the dialogue that has been achieved between workers, employers and the government in the framework of the National Commitment. He praised the institutional maturity achieved in the country, using as an example the extension of the Commitment, launched during President Lula’s administration and carried out by Rousseff.
Parente also described the Rio+20 Conference as an important opportunity to "reaffirm the supremacy of ethanol over any other type of fuel, including other renewable fuels, considering that its benefits are not just environmental." He concluded by reaffirming the willingness of the sugarcane industry to cooperate with the government, to develop measures that expand the production of ethanol and bioelectricity. "We are ready to commit to the success of the partnership, and I'm sure the workers and entrepreneurs here today are ready to join hands with us in this objective," he added.
Other speakers included the Minister of Presidency's General Secretariat, Gilberto Carvalho; the President of the Rural Workers' Federation of São Paulo (Feraesp), Elio Neves; the Director of Agricultural Workers Confederation (Contag), Antonio Lucas Filho; and the Coordinator of the National Sugar-Energy Industry forum, Luiz Custódio Cotta Martins. Twelve certificates were handed out by Rousseff and Senate President José Sarney, to symbolize the 169 companies recognized at the event.
Resumption of Investments
Even without a specific date for the next meeting called by President Roussef, her statement before a gathering of labor leaders, workers, industry executives and officials from several areas of government was praised by UNICA’s Technical Director and Interim CEO, Antonio de Padua Rodrigues. “This open dialogue with the government is crucial for the development of policies that offer a measure of security for long-term investments. She recognized the strategic role of the sugarcane industry in Brazil,” he stated.
According to Rodrigues, ethanol production has lagged behind increasing demand over the past two years, a situation caused by multiple factors that include the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, weather difficulties and a lack of sufficient investments in the renewal of sugarcane fields.
UNICA estimates that by 2020, sugarcane production in Brazil needs to double, to surpass 1.2 billion tons per year, just to meet rising demand for ethanol and maintain Brazil's share in the world sugar market: half of all sugar traded worldwide is produced in Brazil. Investments of over R$156 billion (about US$ 75 billion), including construction of 120 greenfields, or new sugarcane processing facilities, will be required to achieve the necessary expansion of the industry.
Developed and introduced in 2009 following a suggestion by then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the National Commitment is a three-party agreement that involves the sugarcane industry, workers represented by labor organizations and the Federal Government. The agreement identifies best labor practices already in place which go beyond legal requirements, and makes them mandatory for companies that sign on. The goal is to speed up the adoption of best labor practices and continuously improve labour conditions in the sugarcane industry.
The certificates were awarded after an intense verification process conducted by major auditing firms like Audilink, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young Terco, KPMG and UHY Moreira. Auditing will continue until all 255 plants that have signed on to the National Commitment are verified. In the meantime, the number of companies joining the Commitment continues to increase, with most of Brazil's 430 active sugarcane processing mills expected to sign on.
For a photo gallery of the event, click here.
To watch the event on video on UNICA's YouTube Channel, click here.