|SPC to assist Fiji’s sugar sector|
|Friday, 09 March 2012 12:43|
Stakeholders in Fiji’s sugar industry met in Nadi, Fiji, this week to discuss the first phase of a multi-indicative programme designed to assist cane growers to adjust to the challenges created by the end of the sugar protocol.
SPC in collaboration with the European Union is part of the implementation team that will look at every aspect of farming, including issues such as climate change, sustainable land management and marketing, in order to assist stakeholders in current and former sugar cane growing areas of Fiji to improve their livelihoods.
Speaking at the meeting — Improvement of Key Services to Agriculture — the acting Director of SPCs Land Resources Division Mr Inoke Ratukalou said, ‘SPC will address this programme in a multi-disciplinary approach that includes, innovative and best practice guidelines for sugar, and selection of high value and market-driven crops that will bring about a change in the production economy.’
Fiji's sugar production has fallen from a peak of 341,000 tonnes in 2000 to 136,000 tonnes in 2010 and farmers are being paid reduced prices for their cane. Such prices are not compatible with the current costs of production of cane and the latest projections suggest that if the target of restoring profitability by 2015 is to be reached, it is likely that 20% of the land presently used for cane production, particularly on steep slopes with poor and shallow soils, will be released for other uses.
‘While some farmers will leave their farms, others will make gradual changes such as reducing dependence on cane farming or gradually decreasing the scale of intensity of cane production, shifting to intercropping or diversifying the farm enterprise,’ said Mr Ratukalou.
‘I will leave sugarcane and horticulture to the experts; my concern is the sustainable management of our land resources, our key and major resource base for agriculture and industrial production,’ he added.
‘Floods such as the recent ones in the Western Division are a threat that will continue to haunt Fiji’s agriculture economy if we do not put in place measures to protect the land and its people.’
Mr Ratukalou highlighted the statistics of soil loss in Rewa, Ba, Sigatoka and Nadi: ‘These four areas are losing up to 21million tonnes of soil on average per year, so what will happen in the next ten years if our national approach to sustainable land management continues to be overlooked?’
Ratukalou explained that there is a need to match crops to the right types of soil or land. The ability to do this will depend on improved farming technologies. ‘In addition, it depends on strategies for improving the prices farmers receive for their sugar. One of these is pursuing Fair Trade Certification.’
In 2011, SPC assisted the sugar-cane growers of the Labasa area to re-organise as a FairTrade certified co-operative, which enabled them to negotiate an improved price with Tate and Lyle. ‘This is an approach that we can replicate with cane growers in other parts of Fiji, in order to help them receive higher sugar prices and household incomes,’ said Mr Ratukalou.
The big increase in demand for Fair Trade chocolate in the UK has increased demand for Fair Trade sugar, with few countries currently able to supply it.