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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar. 17) - Labasa’s economy will not improve if the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) continues to fool the cane farmers in the North, said Mayor Charan Jeath Singh.

He was referring to reports that FSC will pay FJ$2.76 (US$1.70) to farmers for each ton of sugarcane this week.

Singh said the business community in the North depends on sugar and if the FSC continued to mistreat the farmers, then there was no hope the town's economy will grow.

Singh said the business community looks forward to the March cane payment because it is the biggest of the quarterly cane payments that farmers receive.

"I think from a businessman’s point of view the sugar tribunal should investigate the FSC and check weather the FSC is keeping the money to accumulate interest," he said.

He said if this is the case, then FSC was robbing the poor farmers.

Seaqaqa shop owner Aruf Khan said businesses in North would collapse with such a cane payment.

FSC general manager Ken McIntosh was not sure how much a farmer would receive per tonnage when contacted on Tuesday. "Right now I don’t really know the exact figure of how much would be paid out to the farmers," he said.

Seaqaqa cane farmer Hazrat Ali said he had produced 1,004 tons of cane in 2004 and was looking forward to receiving his huge payment for March.

"But today (yesterday) when I came to town and some of the farmers told me that we were going to receive a mere $2.76 per ton, I could not believe it," he said.

He said he felt sorry for other farmers especially for new incoming Fijian farmers who were still producing below 100 tons and a little over 100 tons. "I just don’t know I they would survive because as for me I could at least survive because I have produced 1,000 tons of cane."

March 18, 2005

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