25 Nov 2003

Labasa mayor fears evictions will hasten sugar industry demise

5:11 pm on 25 November 2003

The mayor of the northern town of Labasa in Fiji, says the eviction of thousands of sugar cane growers from their farms could lead to the collapse of the sugar industry.

Already more than eleven hundred tenants in Vanua Levu have left their farms as the leases on the land expires and ownership reverts to the indigenous owners.

The mayor of Labasa, Charan Jeath Singh, says the industry cannot afford the sudden loss of expertise as experienced farmers leave.

"Instead of evicting the farmer totally from the farm, they should've allocated 50 percent of the land to the Fijian farmer and let the indian farmer continue for 30 years on a side by side situation and let the Fijian farmer learn how to cultivate and plough and produce cane and then the farmer would have ample time to look at alternative sites to move."

Mr Singh says the one-year period of grace granted to the cane farmers, after their leases expire, is not long enough for them to find other work and another place to live.