8 Mar 2005

Fiji sugar production could fall as cane land lying idle

10:15 am on 8 March 2005

There's concern in Fiji that sugar production could fall further because land formerly used for cane planting is now lying idle after the expiry of leases.

The Fiji Times quotes the chairman of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, Ross McDonald, as saying the company is now trying to encourage indigenous landowners to become involved in cane farming.

Since 1997 more than 4,000 farm leases have expired, with landowners refusing to extend them under the existing Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act.

The Native Land Trust Board says another 531 leases will expire this year.

The Board's general manager, Kalivati Bakani, says indigenous Fijian landlords no longer have confidence in the existing act.

Mr Bakani says the landowners want future leases to be issued under the Native Land Act which would be the best option to resolving land difficulties.

Under Fiji's constitution land laws are entrenched legislation and can't be changed without a 75 per cent majority in parliament which means that any change must have the support of the government as well as the Fiji Labour Party.