Local Lime Production
During TTT’s Soil Schools held through 2010-2012, the lack of affordable lime for farmers became a major obstacle for implementing lessons learned. The biological farming practices taught at the Soil Schools combined with the elaborate soil tests showed an excessive imbalance between Calcium and Magnesium, complicating soil fertility.
To correct this imbalance, lime was needed. In addition, there were locations in Taveuni which had low ph which was limiting nutrient uptake, an additional reason for lime application. Given the dire need for lime in Taveuni soils, it became obvious there had to be an affordable solution found, because all agricultural lime in Fiji was at that time being imported at prohibitive prices.
From enquires made by Teitei Taveuni members, it was found that agricultural lime had been produced locally many years ago by the Colonial Sugar Refinery. TTT wrote to the PS Agriculture, Mr. Mason Smith, and he decided to set up a National Lime Task Force and co-opted two members of TTT to it. The set up of the Task Force was announced in October 2011 and the first meeting took place in December.
In researching sugar industry history, we found that CSR had a quarry in Tau Village, Momi, which provided all the ag lime required by sugarcane farmers at the time. Their successors had for some inexplicable reason abandoned the practice in the 1980’s.
In early 2012, flooding in Nadi forced the Ministry of Agriculture to focus on rehabilitation and replanting of damaged crops in the Western Division and the Lime Task Force was more or less put on hold.
TTT members of the Task Force, not being involved with flood rehabilitation, continued to focus their attention on lime supply, and when made aware of a recently opened Ausaid programme called MDF ( Marketing Development Facility). They encouraged and motivated a partnership between MDF and Basic Industries, a local supplier of cement and concrete products in addition to being operators of quarries in Fiji. How fortitious for Fiji that they are presently quarrying lime for base material in highway construction in Tailevu. In early 2012, Basic Industries and MDF met and put in place a memorandum of understanding.
The first half of 2012 was spent on getting facts and information in regard to aglime usage around the world and any research information available on its application to sugar cane farming, potentially the largest user in Fiji and therefore the best bet at getting economies of scale which can result in low prices necessary for large scale economic usage.
Fortunatley for the Lime Task Force, Tate and Lyle of London is conducting a rehabilitation of the sugar industry. Mr Dan Boodhna, an agronomist with Tate & Lyle, was an immediate ally and in total accord with the objective of getting affordable ag lime to all the farmers of Fiji, especially his sugarcane farmers. We gathered information from Mr. Harness, a Tailevu dairy farmer, with his story of improved milk production following lime applications.
We visited the Basic Industries quarry in Tailevu and met with dairy industry representatives to lend support and motivation. Information was distributed to the Task Force members through the Chair of the Lime Task Force – The Chief Economist, MPI, Mr. Ilimeleki Kaiyanuyanu.
As time passed, more stories were coming to hand from farmers in taveuni regarding their application of lime and the results of their experiments. Farmers there were so encouraged to use lime that they were now demanding aglime and were going to the extent of producing their own by crushed coral rock off the beach.
The second half of 2012 saw a change in momentum and enthusiasm for the project. The whole lime issue took on a life of its own and the process began to accelerate. Meetings were held, the different departments within MPI began considering how much was needed to support their sector. The sugar industry became more understanding. And MDF employed 2 consultants to look into the potential for local lime production upon finding a local company interested in producing Ag-lime.
In March 2013 the Lime Task Force met for a Mini Launch of local Ag-lime produced by Standard Concrete. The main item on the meeting was the presentation of the report commissioned by MDF in regards to locally produced Lime. The economic benefits – described in the report - of the necessary lime applications were impressive. The Mini Launch was at the MPI HQ, followed by the official launch in April 2014.
Locally produced Ag-lime hit the market 18 months after the Lime Task Force was established. Not a bad result. TTT is proud to have played a significant role in this process, the result of which is directly helping farmers today, and which will continue to do so long into the future.