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By Sudesh Kissun

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 1, 1999 – Fiji Times)---Seven cane farmers evicted from their farms after the expiration of their land leases have opted for compensation from the Government.

The National Farmers Union said the farmers from Tagitagi, near Tavua, would be paid between $20,000 and $25,000 later this year.

(NOTE: US$ 1 = F$ 1.952 on September 1, 1999)

The union's Tavua president, Baij Nath, said the issue of compensation would be tabled at the next sitting of Parliament for debate and approval.

Mr. Nath said the farmers received $500 each from Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry two weeks ago.

"Presently the farmers and their families are staying with relatives and neighbors,'' Mr. Nath said.

"During our discussions the farmers indicated they would prefer compensation over resettlement. And we have asked them to wait until Parliament approves compensation.''

Mr. Nath said farmers were given two options -- resettlement or compensation. Those who want to be resettled would be allocated land at Rakiraki, Ba and Sigatoka.

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has indicated that almost 80,000 hectares of land has been approved by landowners for resettlement of evicted farmers.

Mr. Nath said some (landowning units) had renewed leases.

"Contrary to media reports, not all farmers will lose their land or face eviction,'' he said.

"There are many which have extended leases. And the NFU is very grateful to those landowning units which have done so.''

Mr. Nath said farmers who were not granted extensions should contact the union office.

"We will take each case to the Government for either compensation or resettlement,'' he said.

He also expressed confidence that the ALTA (Agricultural Landlord And Tenant Act) issue would be resolved amicably.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times).

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