A group of farmers gathered on February 5th 2016 at one of SIRDI’s research fields where they were shown a mechanical harvesting in operation and learnt how this harvesting option can be conducted.
The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institue (SIRDI), in collaboration with BSI’s Agriculture Department through its Cane Growing Project, organized the field day and learning session. The event took place with the aim of showcasing mechanical harvesting as a viable option for sugar cane farmers in northern Belize and to share with farmers BSI’s own experience with mechanical harvesting gathered to date. After the demonstration, an interactive presentation was organized by Enrique Rivas, Research Agronomist in charge of BSI’s harvesting operations and Adrian Zetina, SIRDI’s Research Coordinator to share with farmers some of the key requirements, explain the cost benefits of the operation and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such an operation. The mechanical harvester contractor, Angel Torres of Northern Enterprise Company Ltd. and his field staff were on hand to answer questions about how the units operate and factors that contribute to the cost per ton. They indicated that depending on distance of field and volume of cane, the objective of this harvesting & delivery system is to reduce costs and increase farmer income.
While discussing efficiency of the operation, it was indicated that mechanical harvesting does not have to mean replacing cane cutters but to complement their work in the industry. In light of the drop in sugar prices in 2017, the aim of venturing into mechanical harvesting is for cane farmers to become both sustainable and competitive. In sugar industries around the globe, fully mechanized harvesting is employed. This type of harvesting system can allow farmers to lower their production costs. The full potential savings from mechanization is only possible if
the fields are properly prepared for mechanization. To use such system with such capacity, large continuous areas with sufficient tonnage are needed to justify its mobilization. Other important considerations include a freer access to the mill and full utilization of cane transport units.