All four sugar mills are experiencing frequent breakdowns but FSC is keeping mum on the stoppages and their causes, much to the frustration of angry farmers and industry reps.
Cane laden trucks and lorries still waiting at the Rarawai Mill on Sunday morning
The Penang Mill stopped on Friday night due to mechanical problems. At 9am Saturday NFU General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry found 150 rail trucks and 50 lorries piled up all around the mill compound.
Angry lorry drivers told National Farmers Union (NFU) that they were regularly inconvenienced as a result of mill breakdowns.
The Rarawai Mill was down for four days last week It broke down on Tuesday and did not resume crush until Saturday morning.
The Labasa Mill was down for three days (72 hours) last week after packing up at about 8am on Wednesday. It resumed crush at 7.30am on Saturday.
The mill at Lautoka is crushing well below capacity due to mechanical problems. It shut down for some 12 hours Wednesday last week.
Management at the mills are not commenting on what is causing the problem. Even the Sugar Cane Growers Council is no longer receiving data from FSC on crush and sugar make, according to a Council source.
Farmers are questioning the high TCTS ratio, believed to be around 11:1, because of milling inefficiency, resulting in huge loss of income to the industry.
Meanwhile, the Qawa River in Labasa remains heavily polluted with the mill discharging stale cane juice and chemicals into it whenever a breakdown occurs. The unbearable stench from the river is causing residents in the surrounding areas great discomfort and health problems. As in the past, Health authorities remain blissfully unconcerned about their plight.