3 Jun 2008

Fiji's interim Sugar Minister assures former cane farmers 50-year leases if they return

10:55 am on 3 June 2008

Fiji's interim Sugar Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has assured former cane farmers 50-year leases if they return to the industry.

National Farmers Union president Sanjeet Maharaj told Fiji Times Mr Chaudhry informed them that negotiations had started with the Native Lands Trust Board to secure the leases for cane farmers.

Mr Chaudhry is also the union general secretary.

Mr Maharaj said the initiative taken by Mr Chaudhry to attract farmers would be complemented by the grower incentive scheme introduced in March.

He said it was vital that more farmers were brought back into the sugar industry so that it would be able to reach the 4.2 million tonne target to ensure its viability.

He also said with the increased export quota to the European Union, there was an urgent need to boost productivity.

But Fiji Cane Growers Association general secretary, Bala Dass, says Mr Chaudhry and sugar authorities should concentrate on existing farmers in the industry before trying to attract more.

Mr Dass said more farmers were leaving the industry annually because they were not satisfied with the current conditions.