ABOUT 400 rice farmers in Macuata have been affected by the breakdown of the Rewa Rice mill in Dreketi leaving many worried about financing their children's back-to-school shopping.
The farmers yesterday expressed disappointment over the way things were handled by the company.
Dreketi Rice Farmers committee president Nirmal Babu said about 100 tonnes of paddy worth $65,000 had been piling on their farms for the past month and farmers don't know who to turn to for help.
Mr Babu said the mill broke down about six weeks ago so farmers had not been able to sell their rice.
Under the Irrigation Act, he said, farmers living in the Dreketi Irrigation farming area were restricted in selling their product.
"We plant the star variety and the Act restricts us from selling it to outside markets except to Rewa Rice," he said.
"That is why we are stuck, and it is quite disappointing because no one has come to our aid to help us market our product."
Mr Babu said some farmers had not been paid since Christmas.
"We did not receive any payment before Christmas. And only this week, when some of us went to the company office in Labasa, did they give us our cheques.
"We are asking the company to fix the mill quickly so our rice paddy don't go to waste, especially during this cyclone season."
In response, Rewa Rice Limited manager Ashrit Pratap said the mill was undergoing a maintenance period.
He said new parts for the mill generator were expected to arrive from Australia.
"We expect to carry out maintenance throughout the whole of next week," Mr Pratap said.
"The mill is not entirely closed, it's just going through a maintenance period.
"We are requesting the farmers to bear with us until we complete the maintenance."