The Fiji Development Bank’s [FDB] commitment to the cane sector is over 90% of Fiji’s total lending to the industry. A recent growth in funding is through financing of mechanical cane harvesters under its agricultural services loan scheme. The FDB has to date provided financing of $10.78M across the cane belt areas. This includes twenty cooperatives and eight individuals and partners enjoying the service of cane harvesters since 2014. In support of the Government’s commitment to reviving the sugar industry through strategic and on-going reforms, the FDB provides financing for machinery purchase.
“Mechanical cane harvesters are the innovative technological intervention that was warranted by the industry in response to shortages in labour during harvesting seasons, which in turn affected transportation and consistent supply of cane to mills,” said Acting Chief Executive Officer Mr. Nafitalai Cakacaka.
He said that the FDB has seen an increase in the demand for loans for mechanical cane harvesters, mostly by cane cooperatives in the last three years.
Thirty cane harvesters have so far been financed and imported through FDB finances.
He said the Government’s $2M grant for procuring mechanical cane harvesters will see more harvesters coming into the country. The Bank is aware of five groups of farmers who are in the process of forming cooperatives before seeking financial assistance to purchase mechanical cane harvesters.
“Second-hand mechanical cane harvesters were introduced in the country in 2006 and these pre-owned harvesters were brought in from Australia by individuals. However, most of these machines had already served their lifetime and performance was below expectations and incurred high repair and maintenance costs,” said Mr. Cakacaka.
He said a new supplier, CNH Industrial, from India has been supplying brand new light weight mechanical harvesters that is suitable to our farm conditions. It weighs only seven tons as opposed to the sixteen tons second-hand machines.
“These new machines have proven not only economical but are also more efficient having being driven in-rows for better harvesting dimensions rather than being driven on the roots of cane.
The new suppliers also provide technical and operational support and assist in sourcing accessories for the machines to ensure smooth continuity of the operations,” he said.
This has enhanced the export-orientated entity which is the focus of the Government to ensure that foreign exchange earnings are sustainable at all times,” he added.
It is envisioned that the machines will support the transformation in the sugar industry in the long term and the FDB provides the best financing solutions in interest rates, collateral requirements and loan repayment provisions that are suitable for farming communities he said.