Feature

Devi Shows Cane Farming Pays

“Only one thing I did not do then at father’s farm was cane cutting but on my farm I always go out and help the cane cutters harvest the cane where the mechanical harvesters cannot operate,” she said.
02 Aug 2020 08:54
Devi Shows Cane Farming Pays
Cane farmer Premila Devi with some of her farming machinery at her farm in Naviyago, Lautoka on July 31. Photo: Charles Chambers

Premila Devi must surely be wishing her father was still around to see how successful she has become a top cane farmer.

Originally from Naiwaicoba in Nadi, the 45-year-old former jewellery shop worker now manages her cane farm at Naviyago, Lautoka

She did not hesitate to take up the challenge to run the cane farm after her husband Ravindra Prasad died in 2014.

For her, this work was not new as she had spent her young days growing up on her father’s farm, which she said was not as big as her current farm.

However, she had learnt the hard way as a young girl as her father’s health was not good and along with her six other siblings they had to maintain the farm.

“Only one thing I did not do then at father’s farm was cane cutting but on my farm I always go out and help the cane cutters harvest the cane where the mechanical harvesters cannot operate,” she said.

Harvesting

She married Mr Prasad in 1992 and they settled on the 21-acre farm which they bought in 2002 for $120,000.

“The first year we harvested 960 tonnes from 18 acres but since then natural disasters and constantly being hit by saltwater have resulted in the drop of the crop to an average of 500 tonnes annually.

“When my husband died I was working for a jewellery shop and the following two years after his death were hard times especially when trying to manage the farm.”

Ms Devi was 36-years-old when her husband died and as a young woman, she was faced with looking after her children and making the farm work.

“But I managed to get help from neighbouring farmers and employed some labourers.”

Challenges

The biggest hurdle she faced then was a $38,000 debt with Sugar Cane Growers Fund.

“But the Fund has been extremely helpful and through their expert advice and assistance, I managed to pay off that loan and in total so far have applied for and paid back close to $50,000.

“I managed to renovate and extend my old home, build a house for my labourers, buy new farming equipment including a boom spray.

“The Fund was good to me, whenever I wanted a loan they never hesitated because they knew I would pay it back.”

Last year Ms Devi managed to harvest 700 tonnes and she was hopeful some Government grants would be available this year to increase her yield.

Routine

Her day begins early in the morning and she is kept busy throughout the day which includes preparing food for her labourers.

Ms Devi said people thought she could not survive as a cane farmer.

It is a lesson to all women that they could succeed at anything if they put their mind to making it to work.

Feedbackcharles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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