Fiji Sugar Corporation Aims To Encourage Youth To Enter Cane Farming

12,000 hectares of land acquired to run training programs and be offered for lease or purchase

By Kalesi Mele

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 9, 2017) – The Fiji Sugar Corporation is working to acquire 12,000 hectares of land under an innovative plan to encourage youths to enter sugarcane farming.

CEO Graham Clark said under the plan, young men and women who expressed interest would be provided training and then be given the opportunity to lease or buy a portion of the land to cultivate cane.

He made the revelation while speaking to more than 100 farmers during consultations on the FSC's Strategic Action Plan 2018-2022 at Nukuloa College in Ba on Wednesday night.

Most of the queries from the floor to FSC officials revolved around farmers seeking incentives to engage their children in the industry.

Some farmers engaged in heated debate, saying the FSC continued to receive huge cash injections from Government while farmers were largely left to fend for themselves.

Others requested access to basic necessities such as water and indicated these were some of the factors that contributed to the decline in interest in cane farming from the younger generation.

The average age of a sugarcane farmer in Fiji is 58.

Mr Clark said this was a worrying factor and the FSC was trying to do everything it could to entice youths in a bid to build momentum and take the industry forward.

He outlined plans by FSC to acquire 12,000 hectares of land, half of which would serve as training grounds for budding farmers who would then be given the opportunity to lease or buy portions of the land.

"In my discussion with Government, I said FSC would like to become a farmer itself and I believe half of that land, 5000-6000 hectares FSC can develop," he said.

"FSC can show how we can grow 80-100 tonnes of cane per hectare and have these farms very productive, but FSC is not going to do that forever, so I believe the incentive will be there for the younger generation to be able to acquire a productive farm.

"A farm that is growing 100 tonnes of cane per hectare to come into the industry. That's going to be the incentive.

"So, you don't start from scratch, somebody has done the hard work, somebody has shown everyone how to do it, then you can come and buy the farm or lease the farm. It's like going fishing, so we need to give the right bait."

Mr Clark said FSC along with stakeholders intended to create awareness about the industry to students in schools.

Fiji Times Online.
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