THE sugar industry is still heavily politicised at farm level and this needs to be immediately addressed for sugarcane farming to improve and to retain committed growers.
This was the view expressed, in very strong terms, by Drasa Sector farmer Davendra Prasad at consultations in Lautoka last week.
Mr Prasad informed industry stakeholders a growing number of good farmers were leaving and not encouraging their children to take up cane farming because of non-existent health benefits.
"Our Prime Minister has pointed out in the past the sugar industry was very heavily politicised and I want to let this forum know that this continues to be one of the biggest drawbacks of the industry," he said.
"Committee members holding office for many years are still exerting their influence and farmers who are honestly doing their work and dedicating their time towards improving the sugar industry are consistently being frustrated by these elements.
Mr Prasad said measures needed to be put in place to immediately address the issue.
"We need something in place to address this issue and to get rid of this element. If the industry stakeholders need an avenue to do this, I am willing to step forward and assist because I have implemented changes in my community and they have worked," he said.
On the issue of health benefits for growers, Mr Prasad said there was a need to introduce a scheme under which farmers could access better health services if there was an urgent need to do so.
"There is nothing in place at the moment to address health issues for cane farmers and their families. That's why children have drifted away to job opportunities that offer better pay and health insurance benefits.
"This is important. We need this issue addressed."
Sugar Industry Tribunal industrial commissioner Tim Brown chaired the consultations and said stakeholders would table the issue at their next forum for further discussion.