Back in history: New use for cane fibre

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Acting general manager field services Dom Valibulu inspects trial cane at Navuso. Picture: FILE

The Sugar Industry was the backbone of Fiji’s economy in the colonial days and even after Fiji found independence.

In the early ’80s the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s Projects Ltd ran trials to produce rind boards from cane fibre, showing that the industry was a versatile one.

The then FSC general manager field services, Makrao Faktaufon, told The Fiji Times that, if successful, a cane rind board factory would be set up to produce the boards.

A report in The Fiji Times on May 12, 1982, stated the board was believed to be more weather resistant than chip board and could be used for house construction as well.

“As a by-product of sugar production it should be cheaper than other forms of timber,” Mr Faktaufon said.

The trial cane which was grown in Navua and Navuso for ethanol production would be evaluated for its fibre content for production of the boards.

“Random tests taken so far look fairly promising.”

All existing hybrid varieties of local commercial cane that had proved so successful in the West were experimented with in the Central Division.

The varieties were Sparta, Kaba, Mali, Vomo. Mana, Ono, Waya, Yasawa, Vatu and Galoa.

The Australian variety, Ragnar, was also grown in the Central Division.

About 1.5 hectares of trial cane was grown in Navua in conjunction with Consolidated Agriculture Ltd. And 3.6 hectares in Navuso by agricultural school students and workers under the supervision of Special Projects and the Cane Research Centre.

The Central Division were selected for the experiment to enable maximum use of cane areas for sugar production to enable the FSC to increase sugar production from 550,000 to 600,000 tonnes of sugar.

Mr Faktaufon said the Central Division trial cane experiment evaluated sugar content, fibre, disease resistance and the harvesting qualities of the varieties in an environment different from the traditional canegrowing areas.

He said in the early days, the Noble variety of cane was grown in the Central Division and the POCS, (obtainable cane sugar) from this had been an average of 12 per cent.

Special Projects was looking for a yield of about 13 per cent POCS from the trial cane.

The cane at Navua was planted in April and in Navuso in June the previous year, and it was hoped that by June or July that year, preliminary results would be established.

Mr Faktaufon saw that while it was still difficult to evaluate the sugar and fibre content of the cane, several important physical aspects of the trial cane were noticed.

The cane had shown good germination and a vigorous growth because of favourable environmental conditions.

By April that year, the cane had lodged, considerably but the planting season would have to be later than April and June.

The ideal time for planting would be August and September so that the cane would mature in the dry, cool period during May, June and July. “So far no diseases of any specific worry has been noticed in the areas under cultivation.

“The project was commissioned by the Fiji Government under funding from the European Investment Bank,” he said.

Dan Ellison was appointed general manager of the company, FSC Projects Ltd, established to deal with special projects.

“We have already submitted a report on the project to the Government — the rest is now up to them,” Mr Ellison said.

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