Vanuatu Cane Cutters Hired, Arrive Today

Director Sugar Sanjay Kumar said this was a pilot project and they could be sent to areas in Ba.
16 Nov 2019 11:52
Vanuatu Cane Cutters Hired, Arrive Today
Sugarcane labourers harvesting cane at Qelewaqa in Labasa yesterday. Photo:SHRATIKA NAIDU

The first batch of 19 Vanuatu nationals who have been hired to work as cane cutters will be met by Government officials and industry stakeholders today.

This was confirmed by the Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Yogesh Karan in Lautoka yesterday.

Mr Karan said it was likely more would be hired next year.

“There are various demands being forwarded to farmers (by labourers) and it is not easy for farmers to foot those kinds of bills.

“This is a serious concern in the industry – the fixed cost of labour.

“Where we could assist was through mechanical harvesters but this was not suited to hilly terrains.

“For that we need manpower and to regulate that becomes an issue.”

Mr Karan said he was meeting the labourers today.

The Vanuatu labourers would be paying their own airfares and accommodation while in Fiji.

Director Sugar Sanjay Kumar said this was a pilot project and they could be sent to areas in Ba.

Meanwhile, Mr Karan expressed Government’s concern on the abuse of certain grants given out to cane farmers in particular with cane planting and cane access roads.

“As far as the roads were concerned, some of the contractors have not been honest,” Mr Karan said referring to the material used on the roads and possible collusions with farmers.

In an effort to curb this, Mr Karan said Government has changed the policy this year, whereby instead of providing full funding, this was now paid in payments after inspections were carried out on the roads.

He said as for abuse of cane planting grants, investigations revealed that some farmers, after receiving the first payment did nothing to look after their farms.

Payments for these would be done through a new process of checks on actual planting.

Sugar Cane Growers Fund

Sugar Cane Growers Fund chief executive officer Raj Sharma said they also faced problems with farmers through the $9 million that was allocated through the Cane Development Revolving Fund where around $800,000 was still outstanding.

“Some of them would be taken to court and we have already sent out the letters to them,” Mr Sharma said.

On the regulation of cartage costs by lorry owners for transporting sugar cane to the mills, Mr Karan said this would have to be looked into and probably a policy change whereby farmers could be assisted to buy trucks.

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