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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 3, 2002 – Radio Australia)---More than 1,200 land leases expired in Fiji at midnight on December 31st, forcing many sugar cane farmers off the land.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports that the leases had been taken out under the Agricultural Landlord and Tenants Act (ALTA).

"Indigenous Fijian landowners have begun to take back their land from Indo-Fijian farmers at the expiry of the ALTA leases, with the intention to farm themselves.

"It's all part of the national blue print to encourage and support indigenous Fijians wanting to involve themselves in business.

"This includes the sugar industry, which has in the past been dominated by migrant Indians, who were originally brought to Fiji in the late 1800s by the British to work as indentured laborers.

"While some landowners are renewing ALTA leases, the bulk are not, forcing the Indians off the land, which has been their home for close to a decade.

"The government, meanwhile, continues to resettle displaced farmers in smaller blocks of land outside the cane belt areas.

"For Radio Australia News, I'm Ofa Kaukimoce."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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