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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 15, 2002 - Pasifik Nius/Fiji Daily Post)---Fiji’s sugar industry will collapse if the land issue is not addressed, Sugar Commission of Fiji chairman Gerald Barrack told the House of Representatives sector standing committee on natural resources, the Daily Post reports.

Making a submission on the transfer of Crown Schedule A and B lands to the Native Land Trust Board, Barrack said the impact of the two land Bills that passed their final Lower House readings last week would be a tragedy for the tenants and the farmers because of the politicization of the land issue in Fiji. The Bills now go to the Senate.

He confirmed production in the industry had declined and would continue to do so if the land issue was not quickly resolved.

Barrack said it was a great concern that of the 3,000 leases that had expired only 1,000 had been renewed.

He said security of tenure was the main concern.

"There is a sense of insecurity and tenants are moving out of their farms before the expiry of leases," he said.

"And the financial impact is not only on the outgoing tenants but it is also on the landowners."

He suggested the Native Land Act should cover all native lands for agriculture and otherwise, and have ALTA for state and freehold lands.

University of the South Pacific economist Dr. Biman Prasad said the two Bills were unnecessary because of the imminent collapse of the industry.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation said it had no major objection to the two Bills but it would affect about 13,789 hectares or 15 percent of total cane contract area falling under crown leases.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said the non-renewal of leases had already led to a sharp decline in cane production, which had fallen from the normal four million tons to 2.8 million tons last year, a reduction of more than 30 percent in just two years.

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