14 Jan 2004

Early Fiji sugar payment welcomed by farmers

8:39 am on 14 January 2004

Most Fiji cane farmers have welcomed an announcement by the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, that the next payment for last year's crop amounting to more than five million US dollars will be brought forward.

The Fiji Times reports that Mr Qarase told a by-election rally for the Tavua Open seat that the payment would be made without any normal deductions and was aimed at helping farmers meet expenses related to the start of the new school year.

The Labour Party leader and general secretary of the National Farmers Union, Mahendra Chaudhry, has criticised the timing of the payment, saying it was designed to buy votes for the ruling SDL party.

Mr Chaudhry has called for investigations into how the early payment has been sanctioned.

But the Sugar Cane Growers Council, the Fiji Cane Growers Association and individual farmers have welcomed the decision, saying they are very happy about the early payment which was originally due in March.

An executive officer of the Cane Growers Association, Ramesh Chand, says farmers in Vanua Levu and elsewhere in Fiji are looking forward to the early payment because it will help meet school expenses.

The by-election for the Tavua Open seat will take place on Friday with candidates from the SDL, Labour and the National Federation parties as well as four independents.