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Miller refuses to comment

Luke Rawalai
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan has chosen not to comment on a letter of complaint forwarded to the Prime Minister's office by the Labasa National Farmers Union regarding standover cane at the end of the last crushing season up North.

Mr Khan said he would not comment at this stage since, at first glance, the contents of the letter were factually incorrect.

In the letter National Farmers Union president Surendra Lal said there were at least 20,000 tonnes of sugar cane still standing from last year because of the collapse of the rail transport system and the poor condition of cane access roads in the North.

Mr Lal also attributed the substantial amount of standover cane to late start of the crush at the Labasa mill, arguing the FSC was not able to repair the loading facility at Malau which was damaged in 2012.

"Cane access roads were not repaired to the expectation of the road committees," he said.

"Growers on rail could have used lorries to cart their cane.

"But they were told not to use lorries with assurances that sufficient rail trucks would be provided in the Wainikoro and Daku sectors.

"In fact, the FSC has withdrawn lorry transport allowances despite its provision in the Master Award, hence the growers were forced to rely on rail which has proven to be a highly unreliable and inefficient mode of transport."

The letter said the poor condition of rail lines had resulted in trucks being continuously derailed.

"Growers have been told to fill trucks to an average of 3.5 tonnes but when they do this they suffer significant losses of cane when trucks are derailed.

"Not all cane is recovered after trucks are derailed.

"There have been numerous cases where trucks have arrived at the mill with only one tonne of cane instead of 3.4 tonnes that were loaded."

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