Tractors for hire, farmers react

SUGARCANE growers in the Western Division have recorded mixed reactions to Government’s handover of 30 Mahindra tractors worth $2.8 million to the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama officiated at the handover event at the Lautoka Girmit Centre on Thursday.

The tractors and farming implements will be hired out to farmers at a nominal rate that was expected to be much lower than the $100 an acre charged by tractor owners across the cane belt area.

Shahin Khan, a female grower from Sigatoka who harvests about 1500 tonnes from 34 acres, said the new tractors managed by FSC would bring relief to farmers.

“This will reduce costs for us and will also entice farmers who plant on small acreage to increase their farm size,” she said.

“I used to hire 10 labourers to plant two acres and this would take us a whole day to complete.

“But with the tractor and the automatic planter attachment, we can plant two acres in two hours.

“So it will save us time and costs.”

Seruwaia Nai from Koronubu Sector, Ba, said the tractors were godsend.

“I have been planting cane since 1982 and I can honestly say this is the first Government that has truly listened to our needs and given us the help we need to improve our farms,” the 52-year-old said.

“I used to harvest about 80 tonnes on my 12 acre farm but this year I am looking at 200 tonnes.”

Prominent Ba farmer, Arun Sharma said the 30 new tractors were only good for flatland farms.

“This will not benefit growers in hilly areas,” he said.

“So once again, Government has ignored the plight of growers in hilly areas.

“Government’s $2 million assistance to cooperatives to purchase mechanical harvesters did not benefit us and now this $2.8 million tractor deal will bring no relief for us.”