Farmers feel brunt of drought, claims of reduced harvest

ACCORDING to surveys carried out by the National Farmers Union, Labasa’s sugar crop has already been reduced from the forecast of 750,000 tonnes at the beginning of the season to 600,000 tonnes because of the drought.

Union president Surendra Lal said they were expecting the forecast to be further reduced.

“However, our main worry is the crop for the next season because there are a lot of weak and unhealthy new seedlings,” Mr Lal said.

“Fresh vegetables are in short supply and expensive, but most farmers involved in market gardening are facing hardship through loss of income.

“Government will have to provide relief assistance to farmers if the situation continues to deteriorate.

“The people of Labasa are facing severe water cuts as the North battles its worst drought since the disaster that struck in 1997 to 1998.”

Mr Lal said he had visited areas in the North quite extensively in recent weeks, adding Bua and hilly coastal areas such as Nararo, Papalagi and Wavuwavu were severely affected by the drought.

“In Bua, all the pastures are gone. Farmers used to grow three crops of rice a year under irrigation. They will lose out on an entire crop this year because of the lack of water,” Mr Lal said.

“The water situation was critical in heavily populated areas of Labasa that were on high ground: Bulileka, Tabucola, Vunika, Siberai, Batanikama, Navai and Navudi.

“These areas were not getting piped water because of the high ground. “Worse still, the 10-wheeler government water supply trucks could not access homes here because of the steep climb involved.”

Responding to the concerns, the Fiji Sugar Corporation said they would not respond to third party comments.

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