The Fiji Labour Party questions the accuracy of Fiji Sun’s front page report today (17/4/14) claiming big support for Bainimarama from farmers in the North.
The report is sensational and exaggerated, affirming the Sun as just a propaganda tool of the regime.
FLP sources from Seaqaqa say there may have been about 30 people there at the time of Bainimarama’s visit, most were shoppers. The two farmers who were quoted as supporting Bainimarama were simply extending him common courtesy because Bainimarama wanted to shake their hands
“In fact, the Party would be very surprised if cane farmers in the North were to support Voreqe Bainimarama and his regime considering the hardship and difficulties they have faced in the past seven years,” said FLP’s Northern manager, Surendra Lal.
He rejected the claim in the article that the Bainimarama administration had done much for the sugar industry.
“Since 2006, the industry has declined by 50% with cane production falling from 3.3 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes in 2013. Sugar production has fallen from 310,000 tonnes to 165,000 in 2013,” he said.
The North used to produce 1.1m tonnes of cane. Last year cane supply fell to 550,000 tonnes, he said.
“While much is being promised to bring new farmers into the industry, existing cane farmers are not getting any assistance at all. Their yield has fallen sharply because of high cost of fertilizer and other inputs, Mr Lal said.
“Last year 20,000 tonnes of cane were left standing in Labasa because of a breakdown in FSC’s rail transport system. Harvesting gangs faced shutdown for 60 out of the 120 days of the crush. Farmers’ petition to the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar for compensation for the standover cane, fell on deaf ears. There has been no response from the PM’s office,” Mr Lal said.
He also mentioned that cane access roads were in terrible condition but complaints had received little attention. In some places roads were so bad that tractors and lorry operators were refusing to operate in these areas, Mr Lal said.
He also rubbished FSC’s claim today that it will provide rebate on fuel to lorry operators.
“This is, in fact, a marketing initiative of Pacific Energy. It is simply that their bowsers will be placed within the FSC mill area, FSC is providing no rebate on fuel,” Mr Lal said.
“FLP’s support in the Labasa cane belt is intact. Cane farmers know how much the Fiji Labour Party has done for them. They are not going to be fooled by empty promises from the regime,” he said.