Sugar, Cabbage and Poverty Alleviation

This is just to explain why I haven’t blogged in a while.

I have been getting busier working on (among other things like a proposal, a workshop and my team’s work plan) two pieces of analysis. 

Fairtrade certification of sugar cane production in Vanua Levu, Fiji

The first is a cost benefit analysis of Fairtrade Certification of sugar cane in Vanua Levu, sold to Tate and Lyle from the Labasa mill.  Fairtrade certification was led by Mohammed Habib and his team at the Labasa Cane Producers’ Association, and SPC’s FACT project gave 10,000 FJD towards certification costs.  The study involved the following:

  • increased income to farming communities due to Fairtrade Premiums coming in at 60 dollars per tonne of sugar sold to Tate and Lyle
  • creation of a Small Producer Organisation called the Labasa Cane Producers’ Association to democratically yet non-politically organise sugar cane producers, a challenge in Fiji but – as the study will mention – well worth it, as this means that the sugar cane Gang Delegates (heads of gangs of 10 farmers) are able to effectively choose where Fairtrade Premium funding is being spent
  • Fairtrade Premiums are spent not as cash handouts to farmers but as subsidies to farm inputs such as fertiliser, weedicide and harvesting equipment, as well as community development projects that tackle health, education and infrastructure
  • creation and implementation of an Environmental Management Plan to phase out the use of deadly weedicides and to improve safe storage and use of existing weedicides

I visited the Labasa Cane Producers’ Association (LCPA) in December and interviewed a wide range of farmers as well as LCPA staff.  I now have most of the data and I am currently working on the analysis.  So far the study is looking to be significantly net positive from the farmers perspective: Fairtrade Certification has been and will be in the future, highly beneficial for Vanua Levu sugar cane farmers and their communities.  

Some of the benefits in the study are difficult to value, so simplifying assumptions have to be made, but even if those benefits are not valued the message will be the same: Fairtrade Certification is a good thing for Fiji sugar, economically, environmentally and from a health perspective.

Details and figures will of course be available in the study which, of course, when published, I will blog about.

Moreover there is a plan to extend Fairtrade Certification to the rest of the Fiji sugar industry – the areas covered by the other 3 mills (Labasa mill is one of four in Fiji),  potentially bringing millions of dollars worth of net benefits into the Fiji sugar cane farming community over the next several years if successful.

Integrated Pest Management

Another study that I am currently undertaking is a cost benefit analysis of the Fiji element of an SPC project that ran from 2006 to 2011, and involved integrated pest management on brassicas in the Sigatoka area of Fiji.  In plain English, brassicas are cabbages, and integrated pest management means reduced, smarter and safer application of pesticide, to use natural predators to help control pests.  Economically this means (possibly) less cost on pesticides, less labour used to apply pesticide, and (possibly) more revenue.  Next week I shall visit (hopefully) 18 participating farmers in Sigatoka to ask them questions about the  changes in time, cost and revenue incurred by using IPM practices compared to business as usual, as well as anything they noticed about its environmental effects. 

It seems the science of the project was well established but the economics has not yet been examined.

This CBA will comprise mainly a financial analysis of IPM from the point of view of the average farmer, but I shall try to capture as far as possible the broader costs and benefits.

Results will be presented at a meeting at the end of February about the extension of IPM as a technique, and a paper (hopefully) published…and blogged about of course….after this.  The meeting is to plan the next stage of this IPM project which has been extended from two countries to five.  All the more important that the economic aspect is considered.

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