Farmers’ rep queried

THE head of the Fiji Sugar Corporation has questioned the mandate of the National Farmers Union as a representative of canegrowers and their interests.

FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan said he was concerned about rumours being spread around the canegrowing community in Tavua and Rakiraki about the Penang mill.

“The Penang mill has gone way past its use-by date and we have talked for years about that,” he said.

“It does not mean we are closing down the mill, it has been damaged by TC Winston.

“When Penang broke down in the past, we transferred cane to Rarawai and that is what is going to happen this time around.

“It’s a real shame for someone who says he represents canegrowers then to talk about the mill when we are expecting 100,000 tonnes of cane to come down from Penang to Rarawai.”

While delivering his submission to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs last week in Lautoka, National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry had raised concerns about the closure of the Penang mill.

He said the economic lifeline of a rural centre such as Rakiraki was invariably linked to a functional and operation sugar mill.

Mr Chaudhry said rural centres such as Rakiraki and Labasa solely relied on economic activity stimulated by the sugar industry for their existence.

He added that any mill closure — temporary or otherwise — would have a detrimental impact on businesses, workers and those whose livelihoods depended on the industry.

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