FSC lucky gangs not ready, says farmer

Rakiraki truck driver Muni Chand (2nd from left) with other drivers waits patiently for the Lautoka Sugar Mill to start crushing. Picture: REINAL CHAND/FILE

A PROMINENT Ba sugarcane grower said it was fortunate that the Lautoka mill developed issues at a time when most farmers had not engaged cane cutting gangs.

Arun Sharma, a Naloto Sector grower, said if gangs had been organised, the Lautoka mill issue would have been worse.

“The Lautoka mill stoppage is going to send the wrong signals to farmers, many will continue to hold back and not engage cutters until they are sure that the mill will operate without problems,” he said.

“I hope the mill is fixed as soon as possible because the longer it is down, the more problems farmers are going to face in retaining cutters.

“They have to house and feed the cutters during the mill down time. And a lot of cutters leave farms during this time because some farmers find it difficult to keep them.

“What the Fiji Sugar Corporation should have done is first make sure that the mill is 100 per cent.

Then they should have ensured that all the gangs have been mobilised and transportation set up before opening the mill for crushing.”

Mr Sharma added that it was common practice for FSC to conduct test crushing using estate cane to identify and iron out any issues prior to the commencement of crushing.

“They had a long off-season from November last year to June this year and if they are unable to get the mills repaired and work-ready in that time, then questions need to be asked,” he said.

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