28 Aug 2003

Doubts in Fiji over new land lease payment plan

4:38 pm on 28 August 2003

The general secretary of Fiji's Cane Growers Association, Bala Dass, says a proposed lump sum lease payment to the Native Land Trust Board won't help sugar growers with an uncertain future.

This payment would replace annual rents which some farmers are unable to pay on time.

Mr Dass says more detail is needed for the newly proposed rent free leases, but he doesn't think it will work for the industry.

"If you look at the native land here and the tenant here, the majority of farmers rely on the sugar industry and sugar industry got no guarantee future as long as the price is concerned. And we understand there's lots of people getting out of native land, there's no hidden fact about it and I doubt farmers will accept that thing."

Mr Dass says he believes resolving the land problem in Fiji is the first priority to moving forward with any land policies.

Meanwhile, Fiji's National Federation Party leader, Prem Singh, says banks cannot help farmers to pay lump sums.

Mr Singh says banks have tightened up lending for agricultural purposes and he can't see how banks will handle the new proposal.

By asking for an upfront of all the rental, it'll cause great difficulty for the farmers. The banks will only lend on proper security of lease, and this lease won't be made available until such time the premium or the rents are paid, so it'll be a chicken and egg situation

Prem Singh says the lump sum payments would be exorbitant amounts to source, and be a huge financial burden on already cash strapped farmers.