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Labasa Cane Crushing Continued Through Weekend

Crushing of sugar cane at Labasa mill continues, even though the season was officially closed on Friday, Fiji Sugar Corporation said. The extension of the crushing season was to maximise
11 Oct 2021 12:36
Labasa Cane Crushing Continued Through Weekend
The last official tipping of the cane at the Fiji Sugar Corporation mill in Labasa on October 8, 2021, on October 8, 2021. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Crushing of sugar cane at Labasa mill continues, even though the season was officially closed on Friday, Fiji Sugar Corporation said.

The extension of the crushing season was to maximise cane usage for more sugar extraction, Fiji Sugar Corporation said.

National Farmers Union president Surendra Lal said the mill would close between November or December, but this year it closed in October,

“Labasa mill didn’t have a major mill breakdown this year, compared to previous years,” he said.

Labasa mill acting general manager, Viliame Kidia, said the crushing season was short, as it commenced from June 16.

Two tropical cyclones and a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic set back the crushing season, he said.

Commissioner Northern Uraia Rainima (middle) with stakeholders cut the cake to mark Fiji Day and end of crushing season in Labasa on October 8, 2021. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Commissioner Northern Uraia Rainima (middle) with stakeholders cut the cake to mark Fiji Day and end of crushing season in Labasa on October 8, 2021. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Achievements

The mill planned to crush 363,000 tonnes of cane for the 2021 season, but achieved a target of 360,856 by October 8, Mr Kidia said.

“We produced 33,976 tonnes of sugar, and made 14,429 tonnes of molasses,” Mr Kidia said.

“Despite so many challenges, we managed to rake in a revenue through power export to Energy Fiji Limited’s grid, to the tune of about $1.1 million this year.”

Mr Kidia said sugar shipments to the United Kingdom market measured 19,000 metric tonnes.

Also shipped out was 11,300 metric tonnes of molasses to Jamaica and Trinidad (Caribbean).

Challenges

Tropical Cyclone Yasa uprooted plants on its path on December 17, 2020, Mr Kidia said.

Flood ravaged farms were the result of the havoc following TC Ana on January 31, 2021, he said.

When the second wave of the coronavirus broke out in April, many villages and settlements imposed lockdown measures and restrictions which affected farmers’ work, Mr Kidia said.

“Due to international border closure, we couldn’t bring harvester operators from overseas as there were no flights, and India was already struck by the Delta variant,” he said.

Off season

Maintenance work continued at the mill even as it remained closed, Mr Kidia said.

Because farmers’ income was affected, it took longer to arrange for labourers, tractor and lorry drivers to transport cane to the mill, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lal commended the work carried out by the management of Labasa mill in managing the crushing season in the absence of overseas experts.

He said the change of engineers, chemists, traffic officers and some people in the management level marked an improvement in the overall operations.

Last year, 675,000 tonnes of cane was crushed, against 360,000 tonnes this year, Mr Kidia said.

Farms near the river and coastal areas in Korovatu, Wailevu and Tabucola recorded a 70 per cent loss, through destruction from the tropical cyclones, he said.

Vanua Levu has 10 sectors, of which three are in Seaqaqa, and the rest are in Labasa.

Vanua Levu has 4000 sugar cane farmers, Mr Lal said.

Lautoka

Meanwhile, the Lautoka mill and Raraiwai mills have yet to announce the end of their season.

Fiji Sugar Corporation chief executive officer, Bhan Singh, said crushing season was progressing well.

Lautoka sugar mill commenced crushing in June, while Rarawai mill opened its crushing season in July.

Feedback: shreya.kumar@fijisun.com.fj; shratikan@fijisun.com.fj



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