THE sugar industry lost $22million worth of sugar cane last year and a further $11m so far this year as a result of indiscriminate cane burning.
The figure was confirmed by Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi in Sigatoka yesterday.
"Statistics have shown a reduction in earnings and the loss of $22million in 2012 and $11million so far in 2013," said Lt-Col Vaniqi.
"Moreover, little is realised that the level of sugar is rapidly reduced in burnt cane and dextran cane — a type of bacteria in burnt cane — and high costs are incurred in using chemicals for purification."
Lt-Col Vaniqi said sugarcane fires were generated by various factors.
"Some of which is the work of disgruntled individuals as a means of venting anger from family disputes and other differences.
"Also fires are set to jump the queue at the mills, violating orders of priority.
"Others (burn cane) as pure sabotage to derail government's reform of this key industry."
The permanent secretary said they would work with police to stop disgruntled individuals who hindered the growth of the industry. "The sugar industry has been one of the key drivers of the Fijian economy for more than 100 years and (sugar) is one of Fiji's most competitive and leading agricultural export commodity.
"We will work with our police force to protect this industry and prevent anything like this from happening again."
Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua said they would do everything in their power to protect cane farms.