17 Jun 2003

Fiji Labour leader accused of instigating harvest boycott

7:15 am on 17 June 2003

The Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, is facing accusations of instigating a sugar cane harvest boycott to coincide with tomorrow's supreme court case on the composition of cabinet.

The harvest is scheduled to begin today with the Ba and Penang mills due to start crushing from tomorrow.

But most farmers have still not handed in their harvesting agreements to their local mills.

The general manager of the Fiji Sugar Cane Growers Association, Bala Dass, says Mr Chaudhry is trying to show that farmers are behind him and will only harvest once the Supreme Court delivers its judgement and it is implemented by the government.

Mr Dass says Mr Chaudhry has constantly changed his reasons for a harvest boycott as each demand was met and is deliberately using farmers as pawns for his political gain.

While two mills are due to start crushing tomorrow, the biggest mill at Lautoka is still under repair.

The Labasa mill is not due to start until July because damage caused by Cyclone Ami earlier this year and expiring land leases have substantially reduced the crop.