Tate & Lyle launches sustainability programme for stevia growers

In 2019 Tate & Lyle commissioned Earthwatch to undertake a study to assess the environmental impacts of stevia production in China

Tate & Lyle has launched a sustainability programme designed to enable stevia growers in China to lower their environmental impact and gain greater economic benefit from production. Developed with environmental charity, Earthwatch Europe, and rolled out with support from Nanjing Agricultural University (NJAU), the outreach programme is aimed to provide farming families in Dongtai, East China with training to help them to modernise farming practices and achieve sustainability-related accreditation for their stevia.

In 2019 Tate & Lyle commissioned Earthwatch to undertake a study to assess the environmental impacts of stevia production in China. The study identified an opportunity to drive environmental improvements in production and support the company’s suppliers in Dongtai. Learnings from this study have been incorporated into the sustainable stevia programme, with key areas identified by Earthwatch including the use of sustainable alternatives to synthetic fertiliser, a comprehensive prevention and control approach to protect against pests, crop diseases and weeds, and developing farming practices to help maintain soil health.

Stevia experts from nearby NJAU are supporting growers in the programme through training, farm visits and best practice sharing. In a pilot study, the university team will apply more sustainable fertiliser to an area of land and monitor its impact to help demonstrate and communicate the benefits of this intervention, the main recommendation for farmers in the 2019 study. Growers will also benefit from mentoring throughout the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) certification process.

Nick Hampton, Chief Executive of Tate & Lyle, said: “We are excited to announce our new programme with Earthwatch Europe and Nanjing Agricultural University, which will help farming families in China secure a more sustainable future while enabling our customers to offer consumers sustainably-sourced, plant-based sweeteners. Through this initiative we are living our purpose of Improving Lives for Generations by supporting healthy living, building thriving communities and caring for our planet by improving stevia’s environmental footprint.”

Professor Luo Qingyun of Nanjing Agricultural University said: “I was pleased to be asked by Tate & Lyle and Earthwatch Europe to conduct a field study on the stevia planting to help promote the sustainable development of this sector in my country. Our findings emphasised the need to help growers move to a more sustainable approach. This new programme integrates research and development, with the education and promotion of sustainable practices into the stevia supply chain and will help growers to support a more sustainable farming model, benefiting from production scale and a less labour-dependent approach.”

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