THE sugar industry will begin taking steps towards mechanising cane farming and harvesting as the sugar action plan is implemented this year.
Acting chief executive officer at the Sugar Cane Growers Council Sundresh Chetty said the purchase and use of mechanical harvesters would greatly boost sugar production and aid the industry regain its foothold as a major contributor to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
"We have begun a demarcation process to determine areas where mechanical harvesters can be used. Obviously, these areas will predominantly be flat land. Manual labour will continue to be used on hilly terrain or in areas where machines can't be used," he explained.
Mr Chetty is among a group of sugar industry stakeholders touring the cane belt area and holding consultations with growers about the proposed mechanisation of the industry, cane quality payment system and other issues facing sugarcane growers in the country.
"Farmers have been very receptive but they have also raised several issues with us."
Of most concern to them is the state of cane access roads.
We have given them assurance that now that these roads fall under the sugar ministry that rehabilitation works will be prioritised to ensure there are no issues when the harvesting season begins this year," he said.
Sugar industry stakeholders — sugar ministry, Sugar Industry Tribunal, Sugar Cane Growers Fund, Fiji Sugar Corporation and Sugar Research Institute of Fiji — are conducting grower consultations around the cane belt areas in the division.