CAPTION: Participants at the workshop in Nadi this morning. Photo: MINFO.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama this morning opened an international workshop designed to provide a source of fuel, fibre and food through the nobilisation of ‘erianthus’ – a sugar hybrid.
As a hybrid, erianthus is gaining interest in crossing with other sugar hybrids. While this has seen considerable success across institutions in China, India and Australia, this workshop brings international sugar research experts to present techniques in making crosses in erianthus. While the workshop will discuss the necessary processes needed for this hybrid crossing, it will also present recommendations to improve existing breeding programs.
Acknowledging the challenges for the sugar industry on the international stage including challenges faced by smaller sugar producing countries, the Prime Minister highlighted the need to strengthen sugar reforms in Fiji.
“As the current chair of the International Sugar Council (ISC), we are firmly committed to advancing the cause of this global industry and the millions of ordinary people the world over who depend on it for their livelihoods”.
“Naturally, it is the small players such as Fiji that are most vulnerable to these uncertainties and fluctuations of the marketplace”, PM Bainimarama said.
“I mention all this, ladies and gentlemen, because although there are certain forces that are out of our control, we must act on the reforms that are within our control”.
“It means being smarter. It means adopting new practices. It means taking advantage of new technologies and techniques”.
Highlighting the conditions that Fiji’s sugar industry faced in the past, the head of government who also heads the sugar ministry, said that ensuring the sustainability of the industry will improve the lives of ordinary Fijians, in particular those that depend on it.
“For all the uncertainties that existed in the international market, there was certainty in Fiji that the industry was in serious trouble. So we set ourselves to carrying out a comprehensive series of reforms. It has been a demanding process to change the old mindsets. However, with vision and planning it will pay dividends”.
“In this respect, I am pleased to say that only last week I was able to announce to the Fijian people a record payment to cane farmers for last year’s harvest, as well as a high price secured for next year”.
The Prime Minister said that the workshop presents an opportunity for participants from eight nations to impart knowledge and experiences for Fiji.
“For the sugar industry, these opportunities often come in the form of new sugarcane varieties. In fact, the development of new cane varieties forms an absolutely critical part of the industry”.
“Like many of the countries represented here, Fiji has a sugarcane research centre. We have produced many commercial varieties of sugarcane, and we have achieved great successes in developing cane varieties low in impurities, adaptable to poor soils, requiring less water and resistant to hurricanes and droughts”.
This morning’s workshop also saw a presentation on recent improvements in cane breeding in the country and an overview of sugar research in the country.