THE reduction in crop size and yield per hectare for the country's only sugarcane miller, the Fiji Sugar Corporation, and increased costs and reduced revenue as well as the manpower issues for farmers is the reality faced by the sugar industry today.
Faced with a myriad of challenges, many of which were global issues for many sugar-producing countries, the onus is on the local industry to band together to seek solutions and work through problems for the betterment of the industry.
These were the comments of FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan at the 2012 Asia Pacific Sugar Conference in Nadi yesterday. "There has been a significant reduction in our crop size. We used to produce between four million to five million tonnes of cane but now produce less than two million. This is less than 50 per cent of what we used to produce," he said.
"There's also been a reduction in the quality of what we produce as well in terms of yield per hectare.
"Sugarcane farmers have also seen a reduction in revenue and an increase in cost in cultivating and producing sugarcane and are faced with a huge shortage of manpower. However, this is not unique to Fiji. We've seen it and colleagues from around the world have seen it as well."
Mr Khan said apart from challenges faced by growers with rising costs and reduced revenue, transportation and harvesting were two areas that posed serious challenges to the industry.
"In the harvesting area we used to have extended families to harvest cane but now farmers have to engage labourers to do this, adding to costs.
"In terms of transport, we have vintage lorries which are inefficient in their delivery of cane and we have acknowledged that there has been a huge reduction in rail transport reliability due to a lack of investment both in terms of capital upgrade and maintenance." The conference ends today.