LONDON — Tate & Lyle PLC has begun a new program to support stevia growers in China. The program aims to help growers lower the environmental impact of stevia agriculture and to gain greater economic benefit from its production. Growers will also receive mentoring through the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative certification process.
“We are excited to announce our new program 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 sustainablysourced, plant-based sweeteners,” said Nick Hampton, chief executive officer, Tate & Lyle. “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.”
The program, in partnership with the environmental charity Earthwatch Europe and Nanjing Agricultural University (NJAU), provides training for the modernization of farming practices to farming families in Dongtai, East China.
Tate & Lyle first commissioned Earthwatch in 2019 for a study to assess the environmental impacts of stevia production in China. This study revealed opportunities for environmental improvements in farming and production of the sweetener, and its learnings have been incorporated into the new sustainable stevia program. Key components identified by Earthwatch include:
- Lowering the environmental impacts of stevia production by altering the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides to sustainable alternatives
- Taking a prevention and control approaches to protection against pests, diseases and weeds by replacing plastic mulching materials with sustainable alternatives.
- Developing practices to maintain soil health, improve composting and keep carbon locked in.
“We’re excited to be continuing our work with Tate & Lyle to support the implementation of recommendations from our 2019 study into the environmental sustainability of growing stevia,” said Maria Pontes, director of programs and partnerships, Earthwatch. “This partnership helps to connect businesses with the suppliers in their supply chain, and through our expertise in citizen science and relationship with Nanjing Agricultural University, we aim to support the stevia farmers’ transition to a more environmentally sustainable way of farming.”
NJAU is providing support to the program with training, best practice sharing and farm visits by stevia experts. NJAU will also be running a study of applying sustainable fertilizer to an area of land and monitoring its impact.
“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,” said Professor Luo Qingyun, Nanjing Agricultural University. “Our findings emphasized the need to help growers move to a more sustainable approach. This new program 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 labor-dependent approach.”