FNU and SRIF conduct a joint Sugarcane Growers Survey

Press Release Posted On: June 23, 2022

FNU and SRIF team members part of the sugarcane growers survey pose for a photo at Olosara, Sigatoka.

The Fiji National University (FNU) and Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF) are jointly undertaking a survey that seeks to better understand the challenges faced by sugarcane growers and map out measures that could address the challenges in the sugar industry in Fiji.

The survey is coordinated as part of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between FNU and the SRIF which was signed in February this year.

A primary objective of the survey is to determine the causes of the declining number of sugarcane growers that has led to a decrease in sugar production.

The results of the survey will assist industry stakeholders such as SRIF and the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) to map effective strategies and allocate necessary resources toward rejuvenating the sugar industry.

A total of 900 sugar cane growers will be surveyed as part of this project. The farmers are selected from 33 sugarcane sectors around the country with 300 growers per mill area. The growers were sampled with assistance from FSC.

The issue areas covered in the survey include socio-economic factors, agronomic practices, soils, pests, diseases, genetics, breeding and extension.

While the survey is an industry-driven research, several FNU graduates have been employed as enumerators for the month-long survey with one student jointly doing a Masters by Research through the project.

FNU Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, Professor Roland De Marco, said that the sugarcane grower survey was the launching pad for the setting of key research priorities for a rejuvenation of the sugar industry in Fiji.

“Upon completion of the survey, SRIF and FNU will formalize the research priorities of their strategic partnership to ensure that they undertake applied research to address the key issues facing the sugar industry in Fiji,” he said.

“In accordance with the FNU strategy to conduct research with real-world impact, the SRIF-FNU collaboration will allow for a translation of its collaborative research into policy and practice in the sugar industry, Professor De Marco said.”

SRIF Chief Executive Officer Professor Santiago Mahimairaja said that the ongoing farmers’ survey will help us to identify the challenges in sugarcane farming and prioritise the issues for collaborative research.

“In recent years sugarcane production has been declining notably in spite of the high-yielding cane varieties we have,” he said.

“There are a number of factors like poor soil health that may be contributing to the low production. I am very confident that the collaborative research will certainly end up with fruitful output, which will help to enhance the sugarcane production in Fiji.”

FNU graduate Ifereimi Rokomasa facilitates an interview with a sugarcane grower as part of the survey

The Dean of the College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Professor Paul Iji said that the research is not only aimed at improving sugar production in Fiji but will also develop human resource for the sector.

“One of the spinoffs from a project of this nature is the graduation of a researcher with postgraduate qualification who is capable of conducting independent research in future,” Prof Iji said.

FNU’s Assistant Professor and Head of School Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Salesh Kumar added that this is an interesting era where the University is conducting industry-driven research.

“We are encouraging more industries to come on board and collaborate with FNU to solve our local problems,” he said.

The team has successfully surveyed 600 farmers in the Lautoka and Rarawai (Ba) Mill area and is currently surveying growers in the Labasa Mill area.

Preliminary findings of the survey are expected to be released by the end of August after deliberation in a workshop.