CHIREDZI – Zimbabwe Sugar Association Experiment Station (ZSAES) Senior Agriculture and Industrial Research Chemist, Dr Washington Mutatu has urged farmers can realize maximum ERC by applying best management practice from planting to harvesting.
The quality of a cane is expressed as the percentage of sugar which is extractable from the cane commonly referred to as the Estimated Recoverable Crystal (ERC). This goes down when a crop takes a long time to get to the mill after harvest.
“Maximum ERC can be realized by applying best management of growing Sugarcane from planting to harvesting and you find other farmers bringing their sugarcane late after cutting hence losing ERC,” said Mutatu.
Small scale sugarcane farmers in Chiredzi have been advised to do group harvests and to avoid long queues hence delays at the mill which results in their crop losing quality.
However, during a presentation of her research, a member of the Commercial Sugarcane Farmers Association in Zimbabwe (CSFAZ), Blantina Chipare, said it was worthwhile for small scale sugarcane farmers to practice group harvesting to avoid competition at the mill.
She said this during the twenty-seventh Zimbabwean Sugar Industry Seminar held at Triangle Country Club on Thursday last week.
“Harvesting of Sugarcane is seasonal and it happens at the same time and farmers find themselves competing to deliver their cane at the mill,” said Chipare.
There are only two sugar mills in the country which are Hippo Valley and Triangle and these mills provide milling services to Tongaat Hullett, Green fuel and more than 1 200 small scale sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld.
Some sugarcane farmers in Mapanza area have already adopted the move and they are said to be doing well.
“We should emulate farmers in Mapanza area who have started this group harvesting scheme and they are getting more sugar because the ERC is not lost during delivery,” said Chipare.
A Bindura University of Science Education student who also does his internship at ZSAES, Ngonidzashe Zomarima who also presented his research during the seminar encouraged sugarcane farmers to avoid growing varieties which tend to deteriorate fast.
“Farmers should avoid varieties like NCo -376 and N14 which tend to deteriorate fast,” said Zvomarima.
Some farmers in Mkwasine however bemoaned lack of reliable sources of transport to carry their cane to the mill in time.
“Although we may adopt group harvesting we still have lack of transport, farmers in Mkwasine rely on train to transport their cane to the mill but the train is not reliable,” said one farmer.
The seminar was attended by Chief Director in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Douglas Nhema, various sugarcane farmers from Green Fuel and Chiredzi and various stakeholders.