Fiji’s Sugar Industry Lacks Adequate Workforce

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Fiji’s Sugar Industry Lacks Adequate Workforce Ministry calls on laborers to work for reasonable conditions

By Serafina Silaitoga

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 8, 2012) – Fiji’s sugar industry faces a dilemma of shortage of laborers with the Northern Division being the worst hit, says Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi.

"It is a situation faced by cane farmers in the west too, but it is worse here in Labasa. The shortage of laborers has also led to shortage of cane in some cases," said Lt-Col. Vaniqi who is on tour in Vanua Levu.

"I will meet with industry stakeholders to discuss ways of increasing the number of laborers in farms to ease the problem of shortage of cane laborers," he said.

Lt-Col. Vaniqi said the meeting with stakeholders was also to analyze the cause of shortage and ways to address the issue.

Two months ago, Lt-Col. Vaniqi labeled demands by some cane laborers as "childish."

The Fiji Times had highlighted how some laborers wanted a television and radio in their camps if farmers wanted to hire them.

Lt-Col. Vaniqi had called on laborers to be realistic and not demand too much but work out reasonable conditions with cane farmers. Tui Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere last night reiterated his call to the vanua to get involved and contribute to the economy.

"We have endorsed at the Macuata Provincial Council meeting that our people will get involved and that villagers will be deployed to cut cane in farms during this season," Ratu Aisea said.

"That has already been organized and a team is in charge of that. I do know that some villages have stepped in to cut cane and a particular village in Macuata is doing very well with the cane cutting program," he said. North divisional planning officer Alipate Bolalevu said high interests remained in villages for cane cutting jobs.

"The season has just started and we are positive of an increase because more people have been asking for cane cutting jobs," Mr. Bolalevu said.

"We are working on that right now and bringing in people for the cane cutting jobs from villages," he said.

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