CANE cutters from rail gangs in Ba are leaving sugarcane fields and returning to their homes.
Low wages brought on by slow rail cart turnaround, issues with locomotives and mill stoppages have growers supplying the Rarawai mill raising serious concerns about rail cane delivery and mill performance.
Farmers in Ba and Tavua using the rail system to deliver harvested crop say they are in a desperate situation with cane cutters leaving fields in droves.
Sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said the FSC management should look into issue.
"This type of scenario should not be happening at this stage of the crushing season. The growers are quite right in being concerned and raising the issue with the authorities concerned," he said.
Prominent Ba cane grower Gyan Singh said the Fiji Sugar Corporation needed to be more forthcoming with information, especially when it was crucial to farmers.
"This issue has been raised with the Sugar Cane Growers Council and the FSC. We believe that there are a number of problems at Rarawai and these are linked to locomotives breakdowns, poorly maintained rail systems and mill stoppages," he said.
"When the stoppages occurred and cane lorries built up, FSC prioritised the processing of lorry cane. This resulted in rail cane stockpiling and not enough rail carts being made available to cane growers that were serviced by the rail system.
"There has to be a fixed ratio of cane lorry to rail cart processing, only then will we see the smooth transition of cane delivery at the mill."
Mr Singh added that farmers were finding it increasingly difficult to retain cane cutters and many had left because of low income earned over the newly-introduced two-week pay period.
"FSC needs to understand the reality of cane cutters' situation. In a two-week period, many gangs supplying the rail system only work for four days because of the slow rail cart turnaround and problems at the mill. This is not enough money to provide for one person, let alone a family with children," said Mr Singh.
"Many cane cutters that are harvesting fields have come with their families and because of the difficulty in earning decent money have been forced to return to their homes."
FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan who returned from India yesterday said he would comment on the issue later.
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