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Investing into rail systems for sugarcane is best, says Chetty

March 18
11:25 2013

By LITIA MATHEWSELL

Sugar industry stakeholders hope to revive rail transportation and increase the rail ratio from the current 25 per cent to at least 30 for cane growers.
Sugar Cane Growers Council acting chief executive officer Sundresh Chetty said the lack of investment in the rail transport system in past years had seen rail conditions deteriorate to low levels and drove more cane growers to send their cane to the mills via lorries.
Speaking in Ba last week, Mr Chetty said they had held discussions with Government and a decision had been reached for the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) to start investing in the rail system, which was a cheaper mode of transporting cane.
“At one time in Fiji, we used to have 75 percent rail and 25 percent lorry. Now the trend has reversed; we have 25 percent rail and 75 per cent lorry.
“We are also looking at reactivating some of those whole lines that were closed and get the rail transportation system back to where it should be,’’ Mr Chetty said.
Last year saw Government efforts re-establish three flood-damaged rail bridges in a record six weeks before the start of the crushing season.

Cane Access Roads

A member of the Sugar Advisory Committee, Mr Chetty said the maintenance of cane-access roads was another issue they were focused on improving to also facilitate improvements to the rail system, particularly ahead of the crushing season, which is earmarked for June in Ba.
‘’Every year Government is providing funding for cane-access road upgrade works.
“Previously this funding was channeled through the Ministry of Provincial Development.
“During our consultations with the Prime Minister last season, it was raised that all the roads are not properly done and contractors are charging very high rates so the PM made a decision that funding should now be channeled through the Ministry for Sugar,’’ he said.

Expressions of interest

With a budget allocation of $2 million from Government, the Sugar Ministry will soon be calling expressions of interest for contractors, who are being urged to register.
‘’We will not be depending on those big Government contractors in the district or in the country doing these maintenance works.
“We would like to see that the smaller contractors that are available in the sectors with the appropriate machines be able to assist in doing this work,’’ Mr Chetty added.
Potential contractors that are able to carry out maintenance and upgrade works on cane access roads are urged to register their interest with the Sugar Ministry.

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