FSC discourages burning cane farms; Sugar quality affected

Farmers are advised not to set their cane farms on fire because it affects the quality of sugar in the long term. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) has discouraged farmers from burning sugarcane because of its longer-term effects on the quality of sugar produced locally.
The organisation highlighted that this common practice was detrimental to the sugar industry and to the environment.
FSC has advised that this practice should not be encouraged although it may have short-term benefits such as shortening harvest times.
The practice impacts the quality of sugar produced, ultimately reducing the premium prices that Fiji is able to earn on its sugar exports.
“The reason we don’t encourage burning is because when burnt cane is harvested, it deteriorates quickly and stimulates the conversion of sugar content (sucrose) into destructive compounds such as dextran and methanol, which adversely affects sugar recovery (TCTS) and sugar quality from the factory,” FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark said in a statement.
The presence of these destructive compounds is penalised by international buyers of sugar, whereas sugar supplied free of these compounds attracts premium prices.
It is possible to remove these during the sugar manufacturing process by chemical dosing, but this is an expensive process adding to costs of production, which cannot be fully recovered from the sugar sales price, he said.
“Sugarcane burning also has a negative impact on the environment and public hygiene in areas downwind of fields,” Mr Clark said.
Sugar cane burning contributes to particulate matter pollution, which is spread by the wind.
The associated ash and debris takes time to break down and remains an environmental pollution factor, long after a cane fire.