Sugarcane leaves and tops, once considered residue in the sugarcane plantation field, can be used to add economic value and income for sugarcane growers. In the 2017/2018 crop year, the combined amount of sugarcane leaves and tops reached 22.94 million tons. KResearch estimates that, based on the current mechanical readiness of sugarcane farmers, only around 3-4 million tons of sugarcane leaves and tops were collected, generating an additional net income after cost deductions of around THB1 billion. However, sugarcane leaves and tops have the potential to create as much as THB6.8 billion worth of net income for sugarcane farmers if all 22.94 million tons of them were used to make by-products.
One of the methods to add value to sugarcane leaves and tops is the use of necessary tools and equipment needed for cutting fresh cane, especially sugarcane mechanical harvester, to replace manual labor. At present, mechanical harvesting vehicles are underused as they handle only 30-50 percent of total sugar cane output. In addition, farmers need support in terms of sugarcane-residue collecting machinery. Although sugarcane-waste collecting machinery costs around THB600,000-THB900,000 per set, it is a good investment because it can produce returns for farmers in the long run.
Looking ahead, KResearch
views that appropriate management of sugarcane waste is an alternative to increase and stabilize income for sugarcane farmers who are facing a challenge from the slump in global sugarcane prices. Close attention should also be paid to an effort to promote the cutting of fresh cane instead of burning, which accounts for 65 percent of the total amount of sugarcane output at present. Sugarcane burning destroys leaves and tops while proper cutting can save sugarcane residue for making by-products. Hence, the shift toward cane cutting is crucial for this measure to act as an extra source of income for sugarcane farmers.