Worry over exodus

Pre-Departure briefing for the 154 selected Fijian workers under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme at the Khatriya hall in Suva in June this year. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

While many Fijian families are celebrating their loved ones being picked to work in Australia and New Zealand, canegrowers are worried the continuing exodus of labourers could soon leave no one to harvest their crop.

Farmers in Ba said they found it difficult to obtain cane cutters this harvesting season because they claimed that many had been absorbed in the Pacific Australia Labour Scheme and Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme.

Prominent Ba grower Arun Sharma said he had a hard time looking for labourers when harvesting began a few months ago.

“I usually get labourers from Tailevu, Naitasiri and Namosi but when I went there this year, some are already gone overseas,” he said.

“The others said that they had their passports ready and were just waiting on the Government to give them the green light to go.

“They don’t want to cut cane, they don’t want to come and work on our farm and this makes it very hard for us farmers because we need our cane cut within a very limited timeframe.”

Mr Sharma who owns a 45-acre farm in Naloto said growers continued to face challenges but they had not backed down because cane farming was part and parcel of their lives. “When its harvesting season we face problems with the mill.

“During harvesting, another major problem we have is cutters running away straight after being paid.

“It’s quite challenging to run a cane farm these days and Government needs to look at ways to invest in the sugar industry to keep people here.”

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