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Deo considers leaving industry

Luke Rawalai
Sunday, June 18, 2017

AT the age of 52 Solove farmer in Seaqaqa, Niranjan Deo is contemplating leaving the sugar industry after finding no future in cane farming.

Mr Deo, who has been farming cane for 32 years on his 67 acres of land, used to harvest 1200 tonnes in the past.

However, this year he anticipates 900 tonnes of cane because of challenges that are far beyond his reach.

"In 2006 I used to harvest 1200 tonnes of cane from this farm. That was a good time we used to make enough money to pay off our debts and save for rainy days," he said.

"Now farmers are barely making enough to live and it is worrying.

"The first big problem that we face is labour.

"This season I had an agreement with 17 villagers at Vunimako to cut my cane and they had started out in high spirits, but it is not two weeks into the season and I have only four canecutters coming at a regular basis to cut cane."

Mr Deo said to make things worse labourers have their demands.

"They would demand for cigarettes, yaqona which has become very expensive and even meat and fish which they would like to have twice a week," he said.

"Apart from this we have to think of their pay which is becoming expensive by the year with many wanting payment for $25 a tonne.

"These canecutters forget that we have families and we need to make a living too."

Mr Deo said he was slowly turning part of his farm into a paddock for livestock that he now sells to gain extra income.

"If things come to worse I am thinking of selling this farm next year and moving to Nausori with my wife and son to start a garage and do my own private mechanical repairs which can get me more money," he said.

Mr Deo lives in his farm with his wife Sarita Devi and son Avinesh Ram while his two daughters are married and reside in Viti Levu with their own families.

Demands of labourers within the three sectors of Seaqaqa include:

* two kilogram of yaqona twice every week — $200;

* meat on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays — $60;

* bread, butter, jam and milk every morning — $120;

* noodles, dhal, tinned fish and tinned meat daily — $100; and

* cigarettes or suki — $50

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