Company lays out blueprint to grow Fiji's sugar industry
A New Zealand company presents a plan on how to dramatically grow Fiji's beleaguered sugar industry.
A New Zealand consultancy believes it has the template to lift Fiji's sugar production by 150 percent and reach the Bainimarama Government's target of 5 million tonnes by 2020.
The industry, which has been in decline for years, currently harvests two million tonnes but 3D Consultants say it can dramatically improve this through large-scale, mechanised farming, using modern techniques.
Don Wiseman spoke with a policy advisor with 3D Consultants, Sataya Pillay, and began by asking how the company would solve issues over custom leases.
SATAYA PILLAY: I think there's a tendency to blow this out of proportion a bit. The leased land is the best form of land for farming and there are people that we are encouraging, you know, some of the landowners to be stakeholders in our business, and they are to be stakeholders in the farms as well. So we are encouraging them to be part of the process. So there is a bit of a cultural change in that sense. We are not displacing any existing growers. 3DC Fiji, they are setting up its own farming model which can be replicated in the other areas and so these farming methods are from Mauritius, Australia, parts of New Zealand. We bring in the expertise that do this for large scale sugar cane farms.
DON WISEMAN: You're looking at the land that hasn't got cane on it at the moment?
SP: Basically, because the difference being, the land that has got cane on it has been really not been very productive, it's been over utilised. So the fallow land is the best land for sugar cane farming at this stage and that's where the nutrients are. Our job is to identify that land. We have identified about 5000 acres so far within the Nadroga Navosa area and where the local people are very supportive of our initiative. They are now all coming together and talking, bringing in their land, hey what can we do? So what we are doing is to trying to create some form of relationship with them so that any gains that we get we can share with them as well.
DW: In terms of the costs involved in this, and the costs of transportation and I guess, really effectively, rebuilding the mills because they're very inefficient as well, aren't they?
SP: We are not looking at that because at the moment we are very much concentrating on land, acquiring the land or having the ability to utilise it, to a stage of about 20,000 acres and from there we're trying to bring in the mechanical harvesters and mechanical planters. People's roles will change in our system. There will be different types of people required. There'll be mechanics required. There'll be drivers required. So, that's the system which we are setting up, is right at the bottom. Let's not worry about the mill at the moment, the mill is the easiest part.
DW: Who's going to buy all these tractors and things?
SP: Tractors. We have our own means that we are putting in to place. We have been able to get some investors from New Zealand that are willing to put some money into it. We have the local banking system and the government is very supportive of this, because there's a number of people who depend on this industry. And the future is mechanisation. In the new roles coming up from this industry. You can't let the industry just go. If you let this industry go, you'll have a number of social impacts on people.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: