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Counting the cost of cane farming

Serafina Silaitoga
Sunday, June 18, 2017

SUGARCANE farmers have warned that if nothing is done about the price of cane, the industry would face many trials and challenges in the next decade.

In a survey carried out in the past week in Macuata and Cakaudrove, majority of farmers born into the industry are certain that something needs to be done about the cane price.

The cane price over the past years on the usual scale of about $65, (that farmers described have been the normal price of cane they have received), is not enough.

Farmers say it is not enough to meet their expenses.

With the shortage of labourers and also the demands labourers make, farmers are now paying $20 per tonne per labourer on most farms, while labourers who work in groups are paid a flat rate per tonnage.

And other demands by labourers include the supply of grog for the weekends, four meals per day (including afternoon tea), meat included in their meals, a television set in their camp, provision of flush toilets and an advance payment at times.

Considering all these expenses, farmers are financially exhausted because their take-home cash after expenses is far less.

Canefarmers also form gangs and they have an administrator — a sardar — who is also paid $1 per tonne per farmer.

Transport cost varies with those in Seaqaqa paying between $16 to $25 per tonne and those nearer to Labasa pay about $10 a tonne while those in the Wainikoro area pay $5 to $8 per tonne for the rail cartage to the pick-up point.

Farmers have thanked Government for subsidising transport cost and for the $10million grant that resulted in a good net income for many families.

Some saved money as the grant catered for their deductions of the fourth cane payment such as bank loans, fertiliser payments and lease payments.

Out of the $10m, Government directed $3.3m towards the Northern Division farmers.

Expiry of leases, cane access road conditions, drainage, intermittent water supply, the lack of infrastructure and the high expenses of cane farming, among many other pressing issues, have been made known in this survey.

This week, we will look at these pressing issues faced by farmers in Vanua Levu and most of them want the price of cane to increase to $100 per tonne.

And to simplify what farmers go through financially, we now calculate a financial status of an average canefarmer as an example only.

Ramesh Prasad of Boubale, Labasa gave us an insight to his financial status as a canefarmer:

Cane price - $65 per tonne

Total tonnes of cane: 200 tonnes

Total cane income for one season: $13,000 =($65 x 200 tonnes)

Income: $13,000


* Labour - $20 per tonne per labourer = 200 tonnes x $20 = $4000 one season

* Transport Cost from farm to mill — $10 per tonne = $10 x 200 tonnes = $2000

* Sardar (administrator) fees — $1 per tonne = 200 tonnes x $1 = $200

* Food for labourer at camp — $30 per day for labourer = $210 per week

Labourer can be at camp for six weeks — $210 x 6 weeks = $1260

* 40 bags of fertiliser at $31.50 each = $1260

* Native lease payment = $450 per year

* Weedicides - $120

* Bank loan = $2300 for one year (deductions made only from cane payments)

* Two bags of rice and two bags of sugar from FSC if 50 or 100 tonnes of cane has been cut - $74 each x 4 bags = $296

* Grog for labourers for weekend — 1kilogram of waka = $100 x 6 weekends = $600

* Other expenses on cane knives and working materials for labourers — $200

Total expenses: $12,896

Income $13,000 — expenses $12,896 = $104

Profit for Mr Prasad: $104

After this calculation during an interview with Mr Prasad, he explained why canefarmers were leaving the industry and why many farmers describe cane farming income as a dead income.

Sadly, though, he and his family have had no choice but to stay with cane farming because it is their means of survival.

"This is why we, the cane farmers are calling on Government to increase the cane price because we also have our families to support," he said.

"This is why farmers are leaving or are selling their farms because it doesn't make much money."

Areas Covered in the North:

Nubu, Lagalaga, Wainikoro, Taganikula, Vunivutu, Wavuwavu, Raranibulubulu, Daku, Qeledamu, Qelemumu, Coqeloa, Nagigi, Naleba, Soasoa, Lovelove, Bulileka, Dreketilailai, Anuve, Boubale, Wailevu, Korotari, Tabucola, Wailevu Tiri, Waiqele, Vunimoli, Naduna, Labasa, Qelewaqa, Bocalevu, Dogoru, Savusavutaga, Nasoni, Nabekavu,Tabia, Vatudova, Batinikama, Siberia, Vunicuicui, Nadawa, Batinikama, Seaqaqa (Natua), Vunimako, Solove, Kawakawavesi, Dagau, Korovuli, Naduri Rd.

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