SUGARCANE growers in Ba expressed their frustration at a sugar industry consultative forum on not being able to obtain farm land lease renewals.
Raising the issue with Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Tuesday, farmers said laxity by iTaukei Land Trust Board staff had resulted in a number of cane farms being tilled and left idle.
Esava Sovatabua from Koronubu Sector said many growers who were keen to expand their farms and grow more sugar cane were faced with the same issue — the imminent expiry of leases and bureaucracy at TLTB that saw lease renewals taking as long as two years to be processed.
"We are ready. The land is prepared and we want to put in our effort to revive the sugar industry but we are constrained by the fact that our leases are about to expire and the TLTB is taking its time to renew leases," he told the forum.
Josateki Vakacegu also from Koronubu Sector said many iTaukei cane growers were frustrated at the slow manner in which lease issues were being processed because it deprived them from getting access to funding to assist in the hire of machinery for land preparation.
"We cannot go to the Sugar Cane Growers Fund and apply for loans because for many of us leases are due to expire in four or less years' time," he said.
"We do not meet the criteria because the SCGF says anyone applying for a loan has to have an available lease of five or more years," said Mr Vakacegu.
Commodore Bainimarama assured the 500 canegrowers at the forum that issues with farm leases will be given priority and addressed with urgency.
"The TLTB is working towards renewing leases so farmers can receive assistance," he said.