‘Too many harvesters in Fiji’

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Labourers harvesting cane in Seaqaqa, Macuata. Picture: FT FILE/SERAFINA SILAITOGA

The Sugar Tribunal has to legislate the usage of mechanical sugar harvesters in the country, said Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO Vimal Dutt.

He told a consultation meeting in Nadi recently that the increase in harvesters has resulted in the high rate of burnt cane delivered to the mills as there was race by harvester owners to harvest as much cane as possible.

“A lot of cane is being burnt since a lot of mechanical harvesters have come into the country. Everybody agrees on this point,” he said.

“It has now become important to control the operations of mechanical harvesters in Fiji.

“And to control the number of mechanical harvesters in Fiji, the right body to do that is the Sugar Tribunal.

“There is a need for all mechanical harvester owners in Fiji, be it individuals or co-operatives to get registered and that they be monitored. They will need to pay an annual licence fee.”

Mr Dutt said the Sugar Tribunal would monitor their operations and the tribunal could discipline owners of the mechanical harvesters.

“We need discipline in our industry. Currently, everything is being done on a vakaveitalia (any how) basis.

“The reason so many harvesters came into Fiji recently was that we had no man power and whoever could, bought harvesters. This was good but we now have to control it.”

There were 20 harvesters in 2016, 44 in 2017, 59 in 2018 and 87 in 2019.

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