The Fiji TimesOPINION: Help the ailing sugar trade

Fijians want a brand new sugar mill in Penang.

The Penang Sugar Mill, the fourth largest in Fiji out of the 4 mills – Rarawai, Lautoka and Labasa – was logistically positioned to serve the thriving sugar cane belt of the Rakiraki area with a thriving inhabitants of very keen sugarcane farmers, who helped the mill crush 214,746 tonnes of cane in 2008 – the very best within the 2008-2015 interval for which we’ve information (Sugar Cane Growers Council, Annual Report 2015).

The impression of the closing down of the mill has had main repercussions on the variety of lively sugarcane farmers, and likewise on the crop, as a viable product when the transportation of the harvested crop needs to be carted by lorries by highway all the best way to the Ba or the Lautoka mills – some 55 to 75km away.

It merely doesn’t make financial sense, however the Fiji Sugar Company (FSC) is simply retaining the trade alive by granting transport subsidies to lorries, a lot of that are their very own.

Regardless of the case within the 70:30 share of income to the farmer and the miller, the above prices are ingested and at last on the finish of the day, the sugarcane farmers are forking out the majority of the additional useless burden of prices.

This exercise is just not sustainable, and except addressed, will marginalise current farmers, a lot of whom have left the trade to our nation’s detriment.

Asking for a brand new sugar mill for Rakiraki, from the outgoing FijiFirst Bainimarama-Sayed-Khaiyum authorities, had fallen on deaf ears.

Rakiraki in its peak of its success, used to have 1723 (2015 figures from the SCG Annual Report) lively farmers, far more than Tavua (1645) and Sigatoka (1129), and only some hundred behind Lautoka (2093) and Nadi (2168).

Thus, the financial potential of serving to arrange an enterprise which can put meals on the desk instantly or not directly for over 50-80,000 individuals on a long-term sustainable foundation, must be absolutely supported nationally.

Not that the request for a mill is an excessive amount of to ask as Fiji has had many mills up to now, and solely since 1959 have we had solely 4 mills, in response to Rasheed A. Ali and Jai P. Narayan, who’ve written an in depth historical past and overview of its construction and operations (Pacific Financial Bulletin, 1989, Vol. 4 No. 2), which exhibits that Fiji has had a protracted and various historical past of trialling many sugar mills, which did efficiently work.

The authors discovered that mills had been initially positioned on the Wakaya Island, two in Suva and ten in Nausori – within the Rewa valley, considered one of which was a really large-scale mill and was in actual fact the primary place in Fiji to be lit up by electrical energy.

Nonetheless, inside two years many of those mills closed down as the dearth of enough sugar content material made it uneconomic.

Thus, logistically talking, buying and establishing a large-scale mill capable of crush about the identical quantity – about 200,000 tonnes – that the Penang Mill used to do, is just not a technical or scientifically unfeasible challenge.

Financing it additionally is just not a difficulty provided that to set-up and efficiently run a sugar mill will prices far lower than the associated fee burden suffered by the Fijian taxpayers through the COVID-19 period grounding of planes, which price them $38m per each single month, for the one the parked planes on the Nadi Worldwide Airport, with none earnings.

The truth is, Fiji can and should purchase and arrange no less than three to 6 mills with a matter of urgency; one every in Penang, Tavua, Nadi and Sigatoka; because the naked minimal.

Financial output and exercise will immediately rise by greater than 200 to 500 per cent, and we’ll see a number of lively farmers coming again to the fold, together with the youthful technology.

Plus, we can have employment for chemists, engineers, mechanics, drivers, weighbridge and different technical workers, labourers, grass cutters, lines-persons, subject workers and so on. – that will likely be doing wonders for our nation.

Superb sugar mills price about $7m (Indian 25 Crore Rupees); these are low-cost excessive effectivity mills, transportable as completely different models, and
assembled with ease and plenty of respected Indian corporations manufacture them. (https:// sugar-plant-14685003673.html?pos=1&pla=n).

The total arrange contains, amongst different miscellaneous objects, the sugar plant, sugar cane crushers, hopper dryers, centrifuges, evaporators, rotary vacuum filters, vacuum pans, crystallisers, juice heaters, and rotary dryer for bagasse, for instance.

The railway strains and different ancillary buildings and water provide strains, and waste discharge services, are all hopefully intact, together with the land and the railway tracks.

Thus, at Penang, a brand new mill could be arrange very simply for underneath $8-10m on the previous web site of the Penang Sugar Mill in Rakiraki.

Elsewhere the $7m mills could be arrange with an additional infrastructure price of a most $7-8m, totalling solely about $15m per mill, with all plant and infrastructure prices.

A small $7-10m sugar cane mill, may very well be a blessing, and a lifeline to resuscitate a demoralised and dying sugar farming neighborhood and assist
revive a lot wanted financial exercise and development within the Rakiraki area.

This might be akin to the center beating absolutely once more, and the financial exercise producing meals and sustenance once more to the very hard-working neighborhood of the area once more, because the individuals had been accustomed to traditionally.

Everyone knows that the tourism sector actually died through the impression of COVID-19, thus it is smart to help our sugar trade additionally.

At the least I personally thought that the previous PM, when leaving workplace on the finish of this time period, would and in hindsight may have boasted of leaving an awesome legacy behind – and perhaps he may have named the Penang Mill, the Bainimarama Mill as a substitute.

Nonetheless, this job will now be left to others who comply with after him.

Rising up as children, our elders typically advised us: “Do to not put all of your eggs in a single basket”.

Thus, we Fijians can’t rely solely on tourism alone as had clearly been taught to us by the COVID-19. Fijians within the quick to medium 5–10-year interval, ought to plan for not just one, however no less than two small low-cost mills of the kind talked about above – one every in Nadi and Sigatoka respectively.

Nonetheless, within the very quick 3-5 years plan the incoming authorities ought to help the commissioning of a low-cost sugar mill at Penang with a matter of urgency, and name it the Folks’s Sugar Mill, if not Rabuka Sugar Mill.

This might be a visionary quick time period pressing aspiration of the brand new aspiring authorities; the funds particularly sourced from a significant support program from a mixture of the Australian-New Zealand-Britain-EU-Japan consortium together with the Indian authorities, who’ve been very useful up to now, and would in all probability eagerly help such an awesome growth proposal and get absolutely behind the plans, to help such a worthwhile initiative for our nation.

We’ve got famous the current curiosity of the Individuals within the area, and thus we may additionally probably strategy them.

Given their current assist and navy support being given to Ukraine within the trillions of {dollars}, this small support bundle from the Individuals, could be ‘chickenfeed’ for them, if they’re in any respect critical to become involved within the area, because of their current geo-political issues of different nations’ posturing on this area.

• DR SUSHIL Okay SHARMA is an expert meteorologist and Affiliate Professor of Meteorology, Fiji Nationwide College. The views expressed are his personal and never essentially shared by this newspaper.

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