Fiji sugar industry in trouble without young people
The Fiji Cane Growers Association says the future of the sugar industry is in trouble if it is unable to attract young people back to cane farming.
The Fiji Cane Growers Association says the future of the sugar industry is in trouble if it is unable to attract young people back to sugar farming.
The General Secretary for the Association, Bala Dass, says the majority of the 12 thousand active sugar cane farmers are over 50 years old.
He told Leilani Momoisea that the structure of the sugar farming industry needs to change, if it is to attract young workers back.
BALA DASS: Very little younger generation want to be involved in the sugar industry. The younger generation is moving out of the sugar industry because they are basically looking for a job that is a white collar job. In the sugar industry the kind of payment is that you don't get money immediately, you get money over a period of 12 months. This younger generation they want money on a regular basis therefore they basically feel safe to go and walk outside where they get paid on a weekly basis so that they have some money in the pocket and to attract in the sugar industry it is a very big job to get them back in the industry. No one really wants to come back into the industry. Sugar cane farming is not an easy cane farming. It is hard cane farming. They basically don't want to work hard. To get them back you got to change the structure so we get longer leases. Leases for 50 years or 99 years lease plus cane payment system where they are paid in a short time period. Plus incentives like subsidies on fertiliser. Harvesting is the biggest problem we are facing because there is a shortage of labourers. People who have left the sugar industry to do white collar jobs, it is pretty difficult to get them back in the industry.
LEILANI MOMOISEA: What will happen to the sugar cane industry in Fiji if you fail to attract back younger people into the industry?
BD: If you really don't get back, if you don't have a scheme that will attract younger people to come into the sugar cane farming then the future of the industry is not looking good. Definitely the sugar industry is in trouble because when this generation's time goes away in about five or ten years time when they become old and they can't work then what will happen? There will be nobody left to work on the farms.
LM: There will be land left unused?
BD: There is lots of land left over here that is being left unused you know.
LM: And is that simply because there is not the labour force, there is not the workforce to work the land?
BD: Yeah. Labour force is not there and when leases expired many cane farmers were displaced, many good cane farmers were displaced. They went and build their houses somewhere else and if you went and asked them to come back they don't want to come back into the industry.
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