SUGAR industry authorities are concerned about the escalating incidence of sugar cane farm fires and have warned that the consequences can be more dire than the millions lost.
The fires have cost the industry $11million so far this year.
And FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan cautioned yesterday that the burning increased the chances of the rejection of Fiji sugar by international buyers.
"Farmers need to understand that burning cane does not benefit anyone," Mr Khan said.
"It increases impurities like dextran, which affects sugar quality, and dextran also incurs increased costs during processing because we have to use caustic chemicals to clean the machines more frequently.
"However, the greatest concern for us is the fact that Fiji sugar could be rejected by international buyers like Tate and Lyle Sugars and this would affect the industry as a whole."
With a total loss of $22m last year and about $11million so far this year to the sugar industry, caused by illegal cane burning, police have stepped up operations in the Western and Northern divisions and have warned that anyone caught will be taken to task.
The warning comes in the wake of 12 cases being reported in the West over the past four days, bringing the total number of fires this year to 342.
Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said the total estimated cost of damage from the 12 fires were pegged at close to $55,000, while figures for the total loss since the beginning of crushing was about $11m.
"Six reported cases are from Ba while another six are from Nadi," Ms Naisoro said.
"As investigations continue, the high number of cane fires continue to be of concern considering the loss generated to Fiji's economy."
Ms Naisoro said Police Commissioner Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua had reiterated a warning that any individual found burning cane fields would be taken to task. Last week, the Sugar Ministry launched a joint venture with the Fiji Police Force with the handover of 30 horses to enhance operations in cane belt areas.
Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said the arrangement signified the importance of monitoring of cane fields because of its contribution to the livelihoods of Fijians and the economy.