News Item

FSC Labasa mill now more efficient

News 17 Jul 2018

The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) says it has recorded a sharp increase in efficiency at the Labasa sugar mill this crushing season.

The body was responding to a claim by the National Farmers Union that frequent stoppages at the mill was causing frustration among cane farmers and lorry drivers.

FSC in a statement said conveyor chokes were also a contributing factor to stoppage of the mill.

“FSC mill management have been in regular communication with field and logistics teams, as well as growers on the stops at the mill. Crushing at the mill has normalised after the initial start-up fuel issues,” the statement said.

“Daily crush volumes in excess of 5,000 tonnes are now being achieved in line with production targets.

“Labasa Mill after four weeks of crushing has crushed around 81,000 tonnes of cane, this compares to 92,637 tonnes in 2017. Low cane supply has been a contributing factor here.

Increased efficiency

“However, the mill’s efficiency levels have increased significantly from 77 per cent last year to approximately 97 per cent this year. That’s a commendable increase in efficiency levels.”

Similar efficiency levels have been recorded in Lautoka, the statement said.

“For Lautoka Mill, after two weeks of crushing, and following the initial start-up issues, the mill has crushed a total of 21,325 tonnes of cane whilst for the same period last year this was at 19,078 tonnes of cane,” it said.

“So the mil has performed very efficiently despite initial start-up stoppages.

“Daily time efficiency levels have also increased from 77 per cent to around 94 per cent. And this has been clearly reflected in the tonnage of cane crushed.”

The Rarawai Mill is expected to commence operations from Tuesday (July 17).

Union concerns

Frequent stoppages of the Labasa Mill is causing a lot of frustration among growers and lorry drivers, says National Farmers Union president Surendra Lal.

Mr Lal said the Labasa Mill stopping for a few hours had been happening regularly since the mill began operating three weeks ago.

“This stop/start is frustrating our growers because harvested cane gets held up at the mill every time the mill stops with 150-200 lorries queued up overnight,” Mr Lal said.

“The problem is being caused by clogging of the carrier by machine harvested cane. The mechanically harvested cane was much smaller in size, about 5-6 inches while manually harvested cane stalks were longer as much as 5-6 feet in length.

“The carrier was not built to carry short pieces of machine harvested cane. As a result, it frequently gets clogged and the mill has to be stopped every so often for the clogging to be cleaned. It takes about four hours to clear up the carrier each time.”

Mr Lal suggested processing the two types of harvested cane separately.

“In the meanwhile, it needs to introduce an orderly system whereby the mill deals with machine harvested cane separately instead of putting lumping them all in together,” he said.

He believes about 80 per cent of cane in Labasa was still manually harvested.

“Here we have talk of setting benchmarks for mill operations comparable to those in India and Mauritius, but we don’t see much being done to measure and improve efficiency and operations at our mills,” Mr Lal said.

Lorry driver Sheik Mohammed believes sugar mill management needed to pull up their socks.

“Sometimes we are left out in the cold with no food and shelter. (while waiting for the mill to restart),” Mr Mohammed said.

Source: Fiji Sun