20 Jun 2002

Cane farmers in Fiji's west demand start to Lautoka mill crushing programme

10:13 am on 20 June 2002

More than 200 cane farmers in Fiji's west are threatening legal action against the Fiji Sugar Corporation if the Lautoka sugar mill does not start crushing tomorrow.

The farmers are those whose farm leases expire at the end of this month and who want their crops harvested before then.

Under sugar industry laws, their cane contracts will end with the expiry of their leases and their crop cannot be harvested after that date.

The sugar industry tribunal had initially set the date for the start of crushing for June 18th, but the mill could not start because of mechanical failures.

The general secretary of the Fiji Cane Growers Association, Bala Dass, says they will go to court to seek compensation for the losses of these farmers if the mill fails to start tomorrow.

As well, he says if the milling is delayed, it will take the end of the crush well into the rainy season in November and December when sugar content drops.

Mr Dass says farmers are already incurring losses because they have brought in cane cutters from the outer islands who have to be housed and fed while they wait for the mill to start.