March 15, 2013

Poison in the land worsens

Felix Chaudhary
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

FIJI has the lowest cane production per hectare in the world.

This was revealed by Tate and Lyle consultant Dan Boodhna to growers in the Western Division on Monday.

Speaking to farmers during industry stakeholder consultations at Tagitagi near Tavua, the sugar-growing expert said the government had outlined an action plan to increase productivity and boost sugar production but the onus was on cane farmers to improve land preparation and planting methods.

"At an average of 40 tonnes per hectare, Fiji has the lowest production per hectare in the world," Mr Boodhna said.

"The good news is something can be done about it. We can improve but we will need to identify what the issues are for each sector and district before offering solutions."

Mr Boodhna said one of the biggest issues in the country for agriculture and cane growers in particular was increasing acidity.

This, he said, was contributing to the low yield per hectare being experienced.

"There is a poison in the land that has been there for some time and is gradually getting worse and it is increasing soil acidity.

"In the past, your forefathers would have added coral sand to the soil to address this issue but this practice is now deemed unfeasible because of the high cost of sand.

"There are alternatives to sand, like lime, which could be bought for about $10 per 50 kilogram bag or alternatively, cement."

Mr Boodhna, along with representatives from the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Sugar Industry Tribunal, FSC, Sugar Cane Growers Fund and Sugar Research Institute of Fiji, outlined plans to increase total production from 41,000 hectares recorded for last year to 70,000 hectares in 2022.

"We know it is possible to increase sugar production from the 1.54 million tonnes in 2012 to 5.25 million by the year 2022.

"But in order to do this, we will need your help. Sugar production does not happen at the mill.

"It happens the moment you first begin to prepare your land for planting," he said.

About 120 cane growers from Tagitagi attended the consultations.

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