Case IH in Réunion

The advantages of mechanisation in the sugar industry were demonstrated by Case IH at the recent International Sugar Conference. Joe Spencer reports.

Sugar Conference delegates check out the Austoft cane harvester.
Photo: Courtesy of Case IH

Case IH, together with its local dealer, Foucque Matériels, was one of the main sponsors of the five-day International Sugar Conference, held in Saint-Gillies-le-Bains on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. The company’s demonstrations were a key part of the official programme, which included panel discussions and visits to cane growers, food processing companies involved in sugar production and representatives of the sugar cane ethanol industry.

The Case IH demonstrations took place on the 200ha farm of Richard and Bertrand Isautier in the southern part of the island, which has two cane processing plants. The family also owns the island’s oldest large-scale distillery, founded in 1845 and recognised internationally for the quality of its rum.

“Agriculture is the main economic driver on the island and sugar cane cultivation accounts for about 60% of the total agricultural land. Sugar cane represents a source of food and sustainable energy for local industry – every year sugar cane biomass generates enough power to supply the island’s energy needs for six months,” says Daniel Lacaille, managing director of Foucque Matériels.

“In addition, sugar cane cultivation provides excellent protection against erosion and growers use the by-products of sugar processing to improve the soil when planting,” he says.

“Sugar cane farming is particularly well suited to the tropical climate here in Réunion,” adds Richard Isautier. “Researchers have achieved up to a 30% increase in sugar cane yields over the past 20 years and today growers in Réunion enjoy the highest yields in the world. On our farm we can achieve as much as 130t/ha, but in some parts of the island they can reach 170t/ha. Compare this to yields in Brazil or Australia where they don’t exceed 80t/ha!”

Worldwide, yields average 70t/ha, which is approximately what is currently achieved in South Africa. “The future of this industry is full of opportunities and Case IH, with its long history in this sector, is well equipped to help Réunion make the most of these opportunities,” says Lacaille.

Case IH’s harvesters are complemented by a wide range of tractors and equipment, well suited to sugar cane farming. Especially popular are the Case IH Puma 210 and 140 tractors, which are used for transport operations, preparing the land and fertilising.

The Austoft cane harvester

One of the stars at the Case IH demonstrations was the Case IH Austoft cane harvester (above). Sugar cane farmers Richard and Bertrand Isautier say they’ve run Austoft harvesters for more than 20 years and the Austoft 7000 has proved to be exceptionally reliable. “It can harvest up to 60t/hour, although we generally only harvest 250t/day to match the mill quota,” says Bertrand.