Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Voreqe Bainimarama says land lease issue continues to be a challenge for the sugar industry and as a result of non-renewal of land leases, the total sugar farming land had reduced from 73,000 hectares in 1996 to 55,000 in 2006.
He says this was further reduced to approximately 39,000 hectares in 2016.
Bainimarama says many will argue that some members of the opposition had contributed to this.
While responding to a question from SODELPA parliamentarian Inosi Kuridrani in relation to the decline in sugar production, Bainimarama said that from 1997 to 2017, the number of active sugarcane farmers was reduced from 20,000 to 11,000.
Bainimarama says from the 8,000 farmers who left the industry, 5,000 farmers had left between 1996 to 2006.
He says they also have ageing markers as currently 79% of sugarcane farmers are above the age of 50 years and majority of the current generation have moved on to find employment in other sectors.
Bainimarama says there is also shortage of labour particularly cane cutters which got reduced from 15,000 in 2006 to 7,000 in 2017.
The Prime Minister says the last nine years of consecutive economic growth has resulted in better opportunities in other sectors that has reduced available labour pool in the sugar industry.
Bainimarama also told the parliamentarians that few years prior to Tropical Cyclone Winston trend in cane production was on the rise.
Bainimarama adds that now less tonnage of sugarcane is required to produce more sugar.
He says there was 18% increase in total cane crushed in 2017 which is a commendable effort despite the damage by TC Winston.ADVERTISEMENT Listen to the latest news on our 5 radio stations Legend FM, Viti FM, Radio Sargam, FM96 and Navtarang.