Charan Jeath Singh

Mechanisation addresses sugarcane labour shortages in Vanua Levu.

MDF supported Charan Jeath Singh to procure a suitable mechanical harvester in Labasa, Vanua Levu, to address the labour shortage of sugarcane harvesters.

Charan Jeath Singh (CJS) Group was founded over 20 years ago with the establishment of Gurbachan’s Foodtown Ltd supermarket in Labasa. Including a number of companies in its portfolio, the group has recently expanded into providing mechanical harvesting services to sugarcane farmers.

Historically, manual labour has been used to harvest sugarcane in Fiji. Labourers operate in ‘cane gangs’ who seek seasonal employment with farmers during the harvesting season. The number of labourers depends on each farmer’s expected tonnage.

Sugarcane farming households are generally made up of a male farmer who is heavily involved in the cultivating and harvesting activities, whilst his wife is actively involved in meal preparations for the labourers and the household.

As more young people migrate to urban areas in Viti Levu for better employment and education opportunities, labour is scarce.

Over the years, increasing costs for labour and farm maintenance have made sugarcane farming challenging and less profitable. This has resulted in sugarcane that is left un- harvested, in turn contributing to the industry not meeting its harvesting quota for the season.

Whilst mechanical harvesters had been previously introduced in Labasa in the mid 2000s, the venture was unsuccessful. The harvester model was unsuitable for farms in Vanua Levu as sugar is also planted on slopes and the lack of after-sale-services meant that machines were unable to be repaired, making them unsuable.

In order for CJS to successfully run the new mechanical harvester venture, an appropriate sugarcane harvester model with after-sale-service and maintenance was required.

MDF supported CJS to procure a suitable mechanical harvester with wheels – capable of harvesting sugarcane on slopes – for farms in Vanua Levu.

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