The London-based food manufacturer has enrolled new stevia farmers in Dongtai, Jiangsu Province, East China and Linze, Gansu Province, West China
Tate & Lyle has enrolled new farmers in China, entering into the next phase of its sustainability programme for stevia, a plant-derived, low-calorie sweetener.
The programme will support participating farmers to implement best practices identified in its 2019 stevia life-cycle-analysis and verified in its 2021 on-farm pilot.
Tate & Lyle has also partnered with environmental charity Earthwatch Europe (Earthwatch), working with Nanjing Agricultural University in East China, to develop the programme which aims to ensure that the stevia industry grows sustainably.
Tate & Lyle's Chief Executive Nick Hampton said: "Our stevia programme in China epitomises our purpose in action and is laying the groundwork for the sustainable development of the stevia industry. We are excited to share our lessons and experiences to strengthen sustainability in the stevia supply chain and help farmers to unlock economic benefits for their communities."
The expanded programme follows an on-farm pilot undertaken in Dongtai in 2021 that focused on improving the environmental and social impacts of stevia production, based on the results of Tate & Lyle and Earthwatch's life-cycle-analysis completed in 2019. The 2021 pilot aimed to reduce the impacts of fertiliser use and help farmers to understand soil health through regular, straightforward testing. In its first full year, the pilot programme saw promising reductions in all of the nine impact categories measured against the baseline, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an improvement in metrics linked to local water qualities.
The pilot also found that optimised fertiliser use can positively influence stevia productivity and steviol glycoside content, resulting in a greater proportion of the desirable sweet components used to make stevia ingredients, verifying findings from the 2019 study.
Hampton continued: "Supporting sustainable agriculture is front and centre of our plans to deliver on our commitment to be carbon net zero by 2050, to help our customers deliver on their carbon reduction commitments and to build a thriving farming community."
In 2022, an expanded cohort of farmers in Dongtai, Jiangsu Province, East China and additional stevia farmers in Linze, Gansu Province, West China will implement the agronomic practice changes piloted last year, and trial additional changes to further minimise their environmental footprint. With the stevia agricultural sector at a relatively early stage in its adoption of more sustainable practices, this science-led programme is helping to build the evidence base and demonstrate the positive environmental, social and economic impacts associated with these changes.
Growers will be helped to better understand their environmental impact through sampling, assessments, and participation in workshops with a clear goal of reducing their environmental impact and improving productivity and profitability by implementing the recommendations from the analysis conducted.