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Unused land needed to meet country’s production goals

By Mereseini Marau SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 4, 2010) - An extra two million tons of cane will have to be planted in the new season to meet the national mill capacity of 4.5 million tons.

Cane growers currently produce a total of 2.2 million tons of cane.

Commissioner Western Joeli Cawaki said planting an additional two million tons of cane was possible if all idle land was given up for better utilization in the sugar industry, and that all growers had to increase production.

For that to materialize, Mr. Cawaki said landowners need to not question ownership of land.

"All they need is to keep some for their own use, and the rest they should give it up so that we can plant new cane on it," he said.

"The landowners must give their land up if they can’t utilize it. And growers must produce the quality that will produce a lot of sugar."

Cawaki said the industry was in a critical state and much was needed to salvage it.

Addressing concerned citizens including businessmen and cane growers in Nadi earlier this week, Cawaki said Fiji could not afford to lose the industry.

He said many changes were needed to ensure its survival.

Ministry of Sugar deputy permanent secretary Viliame Gucake said there was a State commitment to salvage the industry.

He said they were aware that most farmers were not planting cane but instead "relying on relatives who live overseas to send in remittances".

He has reminded the growers that the Government and the Fiji Sugar Corporation did not close any of the mills when the European Union decided to reduce the sugar price.

With about 200,000 people relying on the industry directly and indirectly, the two parties saw it best to leave all the four mills operating.

"They were mindful of the adverse repercussions it would have on all those people," he said.

Mr. Gucake said the onus was now on all the stakeholders to save the industry.

"The question we might want to ask is, are we going to sit and see it decline further," he said.

He reiterated the concerns raised by Cawaki and said that more cane needed to be planted.

"The growers must increase their production and all idle lands should be used for cane planting."

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