15 Dec 2003

Fiji council chiefs proposes retaining ALTA

5:19 pm on 15 December 2003

A paper prepared by the secretariat of Fiji's Great Council of chiefs has proposed retaining the current Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act or ALTA.

This is the current legislation under which farm leases have been expiring since 1997 and thousands of farmers have been displaced.

The Daily Post says that according to the Great Council paper, retaining ALTA in the interim will help control exodus from the cane fields and save the sugar industry and its 100 million US dollar annual earnings.

It says the government should buy a 50 year extension to leases by paying one thousand two hundred fifty US dollars per hectare of land to indigenous owners.

The paper says the 250 million US dollars given to landowners could be invested on their behalf by the Native Lands Trust Board with the income going to indigenous education.

The CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Jaganath Sami, says he welcomes the proposal.

"Well, we are not officially informed yet, but we welcome such a gesture and it is definitely going to be a Christmas news for everybody here about the position taken by the Great Council of Chiefs."