The Highs And Lows Of The Cane Season

The sugar cane harvesting and processing season begins next week as the Labasa Mill gets into action on June 17. While the optimism seems at an all-time high from the
13 Jun 2015 09:38
The Highs And Lows Of The Cane Season

The sugar cane harvesting and processing season begins next week as the Labasa Mill gets into action on June 17. While the optimism seems at an all-time high from the various stakeholders, some of the issues faced in the past season are expected to continue.

One of the most important things is the shortage of cane cutters.

But, based on responses we received from some stakeholders, it seems the industry has prepared itself well.

More and more mechanical harvesters are popping up from around the country; some belonging to individuals who are also willing to rent them out and some invested in through co-operatives being formed.

But whatever happens, at the end of the day what matters is that the sugar cane industry needs to remain sustainable and profitable because at least 200,000 Fijian livehoods depend on this industry.


We are approaching the cane processing season. What are some of the highs and lows of the season you anticipate?

Whilst the FSC has improved a lot in the mill performance, the farmers at the end of the day still end up paying a lot for labour cost on actual cultivation and harvesting. The small farm holders don’t see much cash in hand and they are further compounded with difficulty in finding cane harvesting gangs.

With the ever increasing demand from the cane harvesting gangs for advances etc, the farmers continue to lose interest in cane farming. On the bright side, there are around 4 mechanical harvesters that would be operating in North and that should bring some relief to farmers who would use the services of these harvesters. I for one expect to harvest around 1250 tonnes of cane from my three cane farms and would use these harvesters and see how it works this season.

Charan Jeath Singh

Businessman and cane-farm owner


All the farmers/growers are geared up for the upcoming harvesting season. Some of the challenges we are facing is shortage of cane cutters. So we are addressing this as an industry and trying to encourage potential contractors to take up harvesting in various sectors. We have also encouraged growers to form co-operatives and buy mechanical harvesters.

We have seen in Rarawai Mill area, growers have successfully formed three co-operatives through which they have managed to secure mechanical harvesters and this will be operational from this season. We are also happy there are some private farmers who are investing in mechanical harvesters. It will greatly help the industry.

We are working very closely with the cane lorry operators and have successfully negotiated with the LTA and Government to provide concessions on Road Levy tax and Wheel tax. Also, in the cane belt areas we have this drought which has set in very early this year which is hindering our cane planting programme. That is an area that needs to be addressed. We are looking at how we can assist growers irrigate their farms.

Sundresh Chetty

Cane Growers Council chief executive


Basically some of the difficulties that we’ll face this season is the cane harvesting and transportation. Growers are still looking for cane cutters. Some of the highs that would sort of strengthen this season is the Memorandum of Gang Agreement where we see the gangs being more efficient and be organised for harvest this year.

We’ve also had discussions with all the lorry growers association for each mill. So we see this as a very good start to the season.

Timothy Brown

Sugar Cane Industry Tribunal Commissioner and Registrar


I guess the obvious high for us is to ensure that there is a good crushing season to ensure that there are no stumbling blocks in the season. And for our purposes, of course, at the end of the day are the payments that FSC will receive for its sugar overseas because that goes into our reserves. We are always looking at how the contribution of sugar will be to the reserves. So we hope for a good season like everyone else. The lows are the risks and I guess the risks to sugarcane crops are of course natural disasters and we all hope that doesn’t happen.

Barry Whiteside

Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji


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