25 May 2004

Fiji villagers lack money because of lease problems

4:10 pm on 25 May 2004

A report from Fiji's second island, Vanua Levu, says villagers are unable to repay a large loan taken to build a church because they have not renewed leases on sugar cane farms.

The Fiji Sun reports that the villagers had taken the loan using rent money from sugar cane leases as their security, but with leases not renewed, that income has ceased.

The commissioner northern, Misaele Naivalu, is quoted as saying he has received a delegation of villagers who are in dire need of money.

Mr Naivalu says they are now the victims of their own decision not to renew farm leases, and the same has happened to other villagers in Vanua Levu.

He has confirmed that many of the sugar cane farms are now lying idle as the landowners cannot make use of them.

Nr Naivalu says sugar cane is vital to the northern economy and his office has formed a task force to change the attitude of landowners and increase cane production.