A SUGAR expert working with the FSC has called on growers to refrain from burning standing crop and freshly-harvested fields.
Dan Boodhna says sugarcane growers should understand that burning cane or freshly harvested fields to clear leaves and stalks was not only detrimental to the environment but also affected the quality of the soil.
"We have held extensive awareness programs with farmers for the past two years and yet many continue with the practice," he said.
"Burning sugar cane to quicken processing or burning harvested fields to clear debris quickly does a lot of damage.
"The quality of soil is affected and when new cane is planted, the growth will not meet expectations even if a lot of fertiliser is applied."
Mr Boodhna said it appeared that nothing short of the introduction of harsh penalties would make growers to cease the practice of burning.
"It is unfortunate that we may have to resort to imposing penalties just to ensure the growers abide by good farming practices."
Last week, FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan informed growers that once the cane quality payment system was introduced, cane farmers who burned their crop would be penalised.
Last month sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi handed over 30 horses to the police for use by officers to monitor cane burning in the Western and Northern divisions.
Lt-Col Vaniqi said cane burning cost the industry $22million last year and $11m so far this year.