Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar, Voreqe Bainimarama says to combat labour shortages, they plan to mechanise over 70% of cane farms in Fiji.
He says they have poured new investment into a “Co-op” system whereby groups of farmers can pool together to procure large machines, such as mechanical harvesters and they have nearly closed the existing labour gap in flat-land areas.
Bainimarama says it’s only the hillier cane farms left to worry about and they are currently modifying their mechanical harvesters to suit those rougher regions.
While speaking at the 56th Session of the International Sugar Organisation Council Meeting in London, Bainimarama says Fiji has built a proud reputation among world buyers for producing high-quality sugar.
Bainimarama says they are achieving a more competitive scale by transitioning away from smallholder farms to large scale commercial cane farming, bringing smaller growers together through Joint Venture Systems.
He adds that to address the aging farmer population, they are incentivising young Fijians to enter the industry by directly assisting them with the acquisition of land.
Bainimarama says they are also placing a new focus on improving food and financial security for their farmers by adopting intercropping farming models, essentially, supporting farmers at all scales to plant a wider variety of crops on their land.
The Prime Minister says work is not only happening on the cane farms themselves as behind the scenes, but they also have an army of researchers working to lift the standard of the industry as a whole, from the resilience of the seeds they plant to the efficiency of the mills that crush the cane.
He told the World leaders that in an unprecedented move to benefit the growers, they introduced a guaranteed price per tonne for all cane growers in Fiji and they also introduced a bundled insurance initiative which, at no cost to the growers, provides insurance pay-outs to them, and their families, in the event of personal injuries, fire, or death.
Bainimarama further stated that no industry in the world operates with absolute certainty of what the coming years will bring but he can say with total confidence, that my government’s commitment to the wellbeing of their farmers, whether they are growing cane, cassava, yaqona or any other crops, will remain unwavering, for the sake of the Fijian economy, their food security and the livelihoods that sustain Fijian families.
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