26 May 2017

Fiji's northern cane farmers march in Labasa

1:30 pm on 26 May 2017

Cane farmers in Fiji's north have staged a protest march today dissatisfied at what they say is a lack of government support particularly after last year's devastating cyclone.

Growers on Vanua Levu marched through the island's main town of Labasa to present a petition to the Sugar Minister with a raft of concerns.

Sugar cane trucks in Fiji's western division.

Sugar cane trucks in Fiji's western division. Photo: RNZ / Alex Perrottet

That's despite an assistance package announced last week which wipes deductions like rent from the next cane payout and waives the debt on special small loans offered after Cyclone Winston.

The president of the National Farmers Union, Surendra Lal, said farmers wanted a topped-up guaranteed cane payment to continue farming in the face of rising costs and future market changes.

"What we have experienced on the ground is that farmers have not received any form of assistance because they do not have any deductibles or any arrears," he said.

"This is one of the contentions. Farmers are saying Labasa farmers have been totally missed out on the assistance package announced by the Minister for Economy."

Surendra Lal said the farmers also wanted an independent inquiry into the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

Sugarcane farmers in Drasa stand to benefit from road rehabilitation works.

Over 200 sugarcane farmers and their families in the Drasa sector of Fiji's sugarcane belt will benefit from road rehabilitation works that are underway.

This comes after a $US1.97 million dollar contract was awarded to Dayals Quarries Ltd earlier this month.

The upgrading works cover 39 kilometres of cane access roads and will ease farmers' time and transport costs once completed.

The road rehabilitation work is part of a series of projects being funded by the European Union and undertaken by the Pacific Community.

The Rural Access Roads and Associated Infrastructure project, a four year scheme, will also aim to improve watershed management in the Drasa, Koronubu and Malolo sugarcane sectors.

It is also providing income for residents through employment opportunities during the construction period.

Once completed, the road works will benefit over 2000 cane farming households.