THERE is a new crew onboard which will try to sail Fiji’s sugar industry to better days. But with the same age-old equipment and archaic farming methods, will the industry be saved by the millions of dollars now being poured into Fiji Sugar Corporation’s coffers?
We have heard so many times that the industry is at a crossroad and in trouble. These are attributed to dwindling cane production, milling and transportation inefficiencies and cash flow problems within FSC. In its 2017 annual report, FSC auditors bluntly stated: “The financial statements indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that cast significant doubt about the Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
The Corporation has been incurring significant losses during recent years. For the year ending 31 May 2017, FSC incurred an operating loss of USD19.2m and net loss of USD21.8m. The Corporation is also not generating adequate cash flows to meet all its commitments and obligations as and when they fall due, said the auditors.
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IT’S been a year since Tropical Cyclone Winston roared through Rakiraki in north-western Fiji leaving a trail of destruction and suffering in the small township.
While the recovery is slow, Winston has left one group of people in such a state that it’s breaking up families and taking an economic toll on Rakiraki’s future. The Penang sugar mill established in 1878 lies dead now. Winston caused extensive damage to the mill and its current owner, the Fiji Sugar Corporation, is yet to announce what will happen to the facility.
At the time of closure in February 2016, around 300 workers were employed at the mill. Now, close to two thirds of those employees have been moved to other mills or have resigned. Before Winston came and in order to save money, FSC was already talking about reducing operations at the Penang mill by turning it into a syrup factory.
“This is the corporation’s way of saving money for other investments and utilising our own assets to produce good quality sugar. The main reason we are going to produce only syrup at Penang mill is that instead of spending...