Lease issues wear out ‘soles’

FSC CEO Graham Clark discusses an issue with cane farmers in Wailevu sector. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

“THE soles of our shoes have worn out from the many visits we make to the iTaukei Land Trust Board office about our lease issues.”

These were the words of cane farmer Sudhakar Nand who told the sugar consultation in Wailevu sector, Labasa yesterday that apart from well-known challenges farmers have faced, dealing with land issues was tiring.

“It takes about three to four months or five to six months to process your agriculture lease with the Registrar of Titles but with TLTB, by the time you get your lease, the soles of our shoes have worn out,” he said.

“The payments are too much of a delay and I think everyone in this sector knows about it.

“We have planted one acre of cane, but the grass has grown two feet tall and no more money in our pocket because we pay labourers.

“This grant is not useful because it is not timely.

“If you start an engine, it has to start on a timely manner because if it doesn’t start on time, the engine won’t start.

“That’s why the industry is not functioning very well, so if improvement can be done for the timely payment of this grant money.”

Mr Nand said grant money for farmers from the Government had also been delayed.

“I think the FSC or the Government don’t have the money and they just announce it because it takes too long to prepare the cheques.

“Can someone look into this as well?” he asked.

FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark said FSC was the implementing agent for Government with the funds made available for farmers.

“Government also puts in a lot of conditions and restrictions ensuring farmers comply and the money is used well as we need to ensure accountability and transparency,” Mr Clark said.

“Having said that, it’s not acceptable if its late and if farmers have all the information and have complied, it should just take two to four weeks.

“It is not acceptable if there are delays and we will look into this to see how we streamline this process.”

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