Growers Council chief executive Jaganath Sami should stop trying to play politics and do something to help resolve the crisis at Sorokoba, NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry said.
Landowners have blocked rail access to Sorokoba following the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s failure to renew the lease for the land through which the track runs. As a result, farmers in the Ba and Tavua areas have not been able to cart their cane to the Rarawai Mill using cane trucks. They have been forced to use lorry transport which is costing them money.
“The problem caused by landowners at Sorokoba is now into its third week. Jaganath Sami has not yet found the time to go down and visit farmers and landowners in the area or make any attempts to help resolve the crisis. All he does is criticise others who are trying to help,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The landowners have a legitimate grievance – a matter which should have been dealt with long before the lease expired in April. The blame for this lies squarely with the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the Native Lands Trust Board.
The FSC, in particular, is guilty of gross dereliction of duty. There is no excuse for this type of negligence and the senior official responsible for this negligence should be taken to task for causing all this unnecessary problem.
No one can expect landowners to continue to allow the use of their land without a proper leasing agreement. The Corporation has an obligation under the Master Award to ensure that harvesting and cartage of cane proceed smoothly.
“It has failed to do so and must fully compensate all Ba and Tavua farmers affected by this continuing rail crisis at Sorokoba,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The Sugar Cane Growers Council was set up to look after cane farmers’ interests. It has a responsibility to ensure that FSC meets its obligations under the Sugar Master Award.
Farmers do not pay Jaganath Sami to be an armchair executive or to make political statements. Farmers expect him to be out on the field doing all he can to ensure that harvesting and transporting of cane take place without any hitch.
“The present crisis at Sorokoba must now be resolved urgently and the NFU expects the Growers Council to take this matter up with the FSC, something it should have done as soon as the crisis erupted three weeks ago, ” Mr. Chaudhry said.
The Council’s failure to carry out its duties diligently, has caused unnecessary inconvenience and financial loss to farmers in Ba and Tavua, he said.