WITH about 150,000 tonnes of standover cane estimated for the 2013 season, the Sugar Ministry has challenged growers to reduce this figure significantly for the industry to remain competitive and viable.
Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said growers had to make every effort to harvest and transport cane within the times specified for each sector.
Apart from weather and labour concerns, laxity by some growers was costing the industry because of the large amount of cane left standing after crushing was terminated each season.
"The Sugar Cane Growers Council has briefed me that we are looking at somewhere close to 150,000 tonnes of standover cane this year and this is an issue that has to be addressed with urgency," he said.
The FSC has extended crushing for the Lautoka, Labasa and Rarawai mills to November and Lt-Col Vaniqi said it was imperative that growers made a last ditch push to cut and transport as much harvestable cane as possible.
"If there is consistent supply then there is an understanding that the mills will continue to accept cane.
"However, this will only happen if supply is consistent and plentiful. It costs us a lot of money to keep the mills open and growers need to understand this."
Standover cane has increased significantly over the past few years with 70,000 tonnes recorded in 2010 and 105,000 tonnes in 2011.
Last year, through a concerted effort by growers and the FSC, aided by the introduction of prison inmates to harvest cane, standover cane was reduced to 15,000 tonnes.
The FSC said it expected to crush 1.7million tonnes of cane and produce between 170,000 and 180,000 tonnes of sugar when mills grind to halt this month.