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The good old days are no more

Serafina Silaitoga
Sunday, June 18, 2017

IN the early 1970s, canefarmers were paid about $2.50 per tonne of cane, every month and for 75 year-old Ram Lakhan, this was a lot of money.

According to him, farmers were also paid 35 cents per tonne of cane in those days.

A canefarmer himself during that period assisting his late dad on the farm of Taganikula, Macuata, Mr Lakhan said the operations of the sugar industry was cheap.

Compared with today's high costs, Mr Lakhan said they could easily feed labourers with basic food items like canned fish which only cost 20 cents.

"Those were the good old days and during our pay week, all the farmers from this area will go to Labasa with just 20 cents because it could afford a lot of things then," he said.

"And the farmers would only travel to Labasa once a year. Today, with the high cost of living, farmers from Taganikula travel to Labasa almost every day.

"They have so much money compared with our time when we were only paid $2.50 per tonne. But that was a lot of money for us."

Mr Lakhan, who has retired from farming, described today's operations in the sugarcane business as a costly exercise.

"I feel Government should increase its subsidy for the cost of fertiliser to help the farmers," he said.

"In our time a bag of fertiliser was about $3 to $4, but today farmers are paying $31.50 and the Government subsidises about $11.

"To help our farmers today and ease financial load on them, I feel Government should increase its subsidy for fertiliser."

In those days the children of farmers were interested in cane harvesting.

"They knew no other job but to cut cane and help their fathers on the farms," Mr Lakhan said.

"Today, the younger generation are moving out of cane farms and don't want to work on the farms because it is not a profitable business any more.

"My grandchildren have all moved out and are educated and they prefer that lifestyle and I am happy for them."

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