8 Sep 2006

Fiji landowning group renews leases on cane farms

9:50 am on 8 September 2006

An indigenous landowning group in Fiji which says it cares for its cane farmers has renewed their leases for a further 30 years.

The renewals have taken place at Nawai in Nadi at a time when thousands of farmers have been evicted after the expiry of their leases and have become squatters.

A Nawai landowners' spokesman, Peceli Mare, is quoted as saying they have a totally different perspective on leases and do not like to see cane farmers chased away when the leases expire.

Mr Mare says if farmers are evicted, not only are they adversely affected but also the sugar industry.

The general secretary of the Fiji Cane Growers Association, Bala Dass, says he began negotiations 18 months which resulted in yesterday's renewals during which the farmers made goodwill payments.

Mr Dass says most land issues can be solved amicably through dialogue but farmers should not leave lease renewal negotiations to the last minute.