25 Jun 2003

Chaudhry blamed for slow start to Fiji sugar harvest

6:13 am on 25 June 2003

The head of the Fiji Sugar Cane Growers Council says the slow start to the crushing season can be blamed on political interference.

Jaganath Sami says only one of the four mills is crushing at near full capacity while another is scheduled to start today.

Mr Sami says while adverse weather conditions have contributed to the delay, statements by Labour Party leader and national farmers union head, Mahendra Chaudhry, have confused farmers.

"He has been calling for a harvest boycott...he has been changing his terms, his issues.....then he shifted to the sugar tax, from the sugar tax he jumped to the cane access road funds and from there he jumped to mill readiness....so it's obvious that it is all political reasons to prolong the crisis, to tie in with the multi-party cabinet case."

Jaganath Sami says polticians should stop interfering in the industry and leave farmers' welfare up to the many representatives on the Growers Council.

This year's total crop has been given a revised estimate of 3-POINT-2 million tonnes and Mr Sami says farmers could face losses if further delays are experienced.