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Singh still ploughs the land at 83

Serafina Silaitoga
Monday, June 19, 2017

HIS wrinkled face displayed no signs of weariness.

And at the age of 83 Sukhram Singh of Nagigi, Labasa, has the determination, dedication and the willingness to help his colleagues build a vibrant sugar industry.

Mr Singh still works on his farm, ploughs the land and drives his own tractor.

The joyful and high-spirited farmer, who has worked in the sugar industry since the 1950s, remembered those early days of farming especially the cane payment of 20 cents per tonne which was financially sufficient for farmers at that time.

"I dropped out of school at the age of 12 and started working on the farm doing some small jobs for my dad being his farm boy," Mr Singh said.

"After working with him for a few years, he started giving me bigger jobs to do like ploughing the land, cutting cane and loading it on the truck with other workers.

"Then eventually, I got to look after the farm myself and run it like a boss because my dad was getting old."

Unlike his dad, Mr Singh has continued the farming business, even at his old age, and he has no plans to retire.

But one thing he is sure about and that is the cost of managing his cane farm has become exorbitant.

"Everything has gone up in the industry and the cost of living too has increased compared with our days as young farmers," Mr Singh said.

"While the prices of fertiliser and native lease cost have increased, the price of cane has been basically the same for the past many years.

"If it increases, it does so by a few dollars and not a big margin from the previous cane price so this has not helped farmers breathe financially."

A lot of farmers in his area, Mr Singh said had pulled out of farming.

"Otherwise they have just reduced their cane farming and increased their fruits and vegetable farming because it is quick cash," he said.

"Sadly though, I am the last survivor of a generation of canefarmers in my family because all my children and grandchildren have moved out to live their own lives."

Mr Singh lives with his grandson Parshant Singh, 19, and he has tried to convince him to continue with the family tradition of cane farming.

"But he doesn't want to and I don't blame him too. I just want my grandson to have the best in life."

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