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Need for goodwill to resolve land issues

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A SOCIAL Democratic Liberal Party candidate believes no government is be capable of resolving land issues unless it has the goodwill of landowners.

"First and foremost, we must accept that the indigenous people have the ownership of the land in this country and land is the core to our economic and social development," said Nirmal Singh.

Mr Singh said employment, economic development, quality of life and social development were dependent on the utilisation of the land whether for agriculture, investment or industrial development.

"Our landowners must also realise that the wellbeing of Fiji and its people is in their hands.

"It is important to make productive use of the land and landowners must get just and fair return for leasing their land," he said.

"Unfortunately, politics of land is mostly confined to the sugar industry where neither the tenant nor the landlord gets just return.

"An average sugarcane farmer produces about 100 tonnes of cane, which amounts to about $5000, which is well below the poverty line. Farmers are not even able to meet the expenses and pay land rent because payments by FSC are spread throughout the year.

"It is probably the only product that is sold by the farmer for which he gets paid in installments over a period of one year. If the land is leased then it must be beneficial to both the tenant and the landlord otherwise there is no incentive for either party.

"This is where the government must ensure that high value agricultural products such as those consumed in the tourism industry, macadamia nuts, beef, carrots, capsicum are produced and priority should be given for commercial scale agriculture that provides high return to the farmer and landlord."

Mr Singh said sugar was no longer an option unless there was modernisation and farming done in large scale. He said landowners must feel their ownership of land was secured for their future generations.

"There must be no ambiguity in law when it comes to landownership and there must be no ambiguity in law when land is leased to a tenant so that both parties feel secure.

"In fact, priority should be given to land leasing for commercial, business and resource development because this is where landowners can maximise their return.

"Once landowners feel their land is secured and they are getting fair return, there will be outflow of goodwill and Fiji will have abundance of land to develop its economy."





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