‘Compensation not the answer’

Frustrated lorry drivers during a mill stoppage at Lautoka last week. Picture: MARGARET WISE

THE Fiji Sugar Corporation must explain why it is unable to fix its mills during the off-season and where the $16 million spent on upgrades to the Lautoka mill went, says National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

“Simply providing $5 a tonne compensation is not the answer, the answer lies in ensuring the mills are fixed and ready in time for the start of crush,” he said.

“The FSC has eight months from November, when crushing ends, to June when the next season begins to get the mills prepared.

“If FSC is not able to get this right then questions need to be asked.

“There has been a significant investment of $16m into the mill, it’s into its third week and if they cannot manage that then they should resign and go home.

“By simply releasing crush data, farmers have no idea about the TCTS (tonnes of cane to tonnes of sugar), so they won’t know if the mills are operating efficiently.”

Mr Chaudhry added that three weeks into crushing, the Lautoka mill continues to be plagued with problems.

“The mill had four stoppages and is crushing at a very slow rate. We can gauge that by the number of trips each lorry makes and number of quotas issued.”

This newspaper spoke to drivers supplying to the mill and many said they were making one trip every 12 hours. In previous years, they said they used to make two or more.

In response to questions sent by this newspaper, the FSC said it would not comment or reply to political commentary.

“Our three mills are all now steadily in operation,” the FSC said.

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