SUNBIZ

A Progressive Sugar Industry

This week, we focus on the Field, which is the division that interacts and caters to the needs of our sugar cane grow­ers. FSC has a total of 38 field
25 Aug 2018 10:00
A Progressive Sugar Industry
Fiji Sugar Corporation chief executive officer Graham Clark (second from right), Corporate Services general manager Kameli Batiweti (fifth from right), chief operation officer Navin Chandra (sixth from right), and Rarawai Sector Team Leader Walter Pickering meeting sugar cane growers. Photo: Fiji Sugar Corporation

This week, we focus on the Field, which is the division that interacts and caters to the needs of our sugar cane grow­ers.

FSC has a total of 38 field sectors spread across its four mill areas, three of which are located on Viti Levu and one in Vanua Levu.

Only three of the FSC’s mills are operational, that is Lautoka, Rarawai in Ba and Labasa.

The Penang Mill is no longer op­erational, however the Field sector, continues to be a thriving area in the sugar cane belt.

Government support

Fiji’s Sugar industry, which di­rectly engages around 200,000 Fiji­ans, is backed and supported by the Government of Fiji, through vari­ous incentive programmes aimed at modernising the industry and building a sustainable platform for future growth.

The Government of Fiji’s sup­port to the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC), is guided by the FSC’s five-year Strategic Plan (SAP) that fo­cuses infrastructure development at the farm level and interventions that control sugar cane production costs. The total Sugarcane Develop­ment and Farmers’ Assistance sits at $15.4 million this year.

FSC Chief Operating Officer Navin Chandra said: “Financial assistance is also extended to the maintenance and repair of cane access roads and the cartage costs of transporting cane from the Pen­ang Mill sectors in Rakiraki to the FSC’s Rarawai Mill”.

The Government of Fiji’s unwa­vering support has seen an im­provement in cane development this year.

Grower feedback has been both encouraging and progressive, as more growers take advantage of the subsidised weedicide and fer­tilizer costs. In some parts of the cane belt, this has really acceler­ated cane planting and other asso­ciated developments.

Sugar cane planting

For almost a decade, the Fijian Government support for sugarcane development has been substantial and it underlines the desire to in­crease sugarcane production to 3.5 million tonnes by the year 2023.

Mr Chandra said: “there are real challenges like the impact of cli­mate change which cannot be ig­nored, the loss of farming skill and knowledge as growers age over time, the resulting quality of farming brought on by this and the general farming discipline that has declined over the years leading to a lack of systematic monitoring and follow-up in the sugar cane farming process”.

Therefore, the FSC’s Field Exten­sion division, which focuses on relationship with sugar cane grow­ers, works closely with them to as­sist and monitor cane production programmes.

They advise on cane grower grant criteria, its processes and other technical farming recommenda­tions, which are designed to elimi­nate wastage and abuse.

Under the Ministry’s 2018/19 Sug­ar Development Programme a total of $15.4 million has been allocated for the continuation of sugar cane assistance for fallow land cane planting, the rehabilitation of un­economical ratoon fields and the supply of agricultural lime ferti­liser (Aglime) to improve the acid­ity of soils.

This programme also caters for bulldozer works on heavy vegeta­tion on fallow land.

Mr Chandra said: “Grant pay­ments are released to growers after the verification process by the FSC Field Team, mainly to ensure that growers are adhering to the land preparation technical procedures laid out by the company.”

The maximum area that is allowed to be planted under the grant is 4.0 ha.

There can arise some exceptional cases, these are referred to the Na­tional Steering Committee, which deliberate on it and whose decision, once reached, is final.

Growers are encouraged to visit or call FSC Sector Offices for any clari­fication on this.

In comparing averages, for the three-year period from 2015 to 2017, land preparation and planting has this year, increased by 13 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

Mr Chandra says: “Growers should take advantage of the dry weather conditions currently being expe­rienced and prepare their land for planting, and then when the rainy season arrives, they can actually start planting.”

Should growers need to irrigate their plant cane, they can contact their Field Sector Team Leaders for irrigation pumps that the FSC hires out.

“For improved cane production, growers are to ensure fertiliser is applied to farms at optimum level,” he said.

Ideally, growers should take advan­tage of fertiliser subsidy that is be­ing offered by the Government and requests growers place their orders with their Sirdars.

Mr Chandra also stressed that in order to keep farms weed-free, grow­ers should take advantage of the weedicide subsidy provided by the Government of Fiji, with a weedi­cide cost discount of 56 per cent which is passed onto growers.

Drive to attract new sugarcane growers

A comprehensive assistance pack­age exists for Fijians wanting to venture into commercial sugar cane farming.

In complementing this attractive Government incentive, Mr Chandra said: “The Government of Fiji has in this year national budget allocat­ed $2 million towards building new growers and under this programme, the government covers the cost of acquiring a lease for a plot of farm­land from the iTaukei Land Trust Board”.

So essentially the Fijian Govern­ment will cover apart from the above, also the cost of preparing, planting and cultivating the first two hectares of sugarcane and fa­cilitates the acquisition of the cane contract with the FSC.

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