Bring Back Rail. Be­ware Unions. Sugar Thoughts.

Fiji Sun - - Comment - JYOTI PRATIBHA Feedback: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

There is a real and in­creas­ing de­mand for cane cut­ters who are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing fewer in num­bers.

Cane crush­ing sea­son is here again and once again is­sues that have plagued this in­dus­try for some time now will resur­face. One is­sue that farm­ers have been grap­pling with has of course been trans­porta­tion. Yesteryears mode of trans­port­ing cane through the rail­ways is some­thing that needs to make a come­back, a grow­ing num­ber of farm­ers are say­ing. For too long our rail­ways were ne­glected as us­ing lor­ries be­came favoured. In to­day’s “green” world it makes en­vi­ron­men­tal sense to look again at rail. Farm­ers have made the point too that in some ar­eas rail is far more ef­fi­cient and cost ef­fec­tive than ei­ther lor­ries or trac­tors. Some say that proper use of rail also lifts the con­sis­tency of the sup­ply to keep the mills crush­ing.

In­vest­ing in rail again will lift a bur­den, vo­cal farm­ers have pointed out. Fi­nan­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally rail seems to need to be higher on the agenda. An­other is­sue that cane farm­ers of to­day are fac­ing is the lack of cane cut­ters. Not many peo­ple th­ese days want to labour long hours in the scorch­ing heat cut­ting cane. There is a real and in­creas­ing de­mand for cane cut­ters who are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing fewer in num­bers. Per­haps more farm­ers need to be­come savvy now and se­ri­ously con­sider Fiji Sugar Cor­po­ra­tion’s ef­forts to in­tro­duce me­chan­i­cal cane har­vesters. This would be one less fi­nan­cial bur­den for our farm­ers. The Fiji Cor­rec­tions Ser­vices has come to the as­sis­tance of many farm­ers by get­ting in­mates into farms to cut cane. A wor­thy ini­tia­tive that needs to be praised. But farm­ers need to start con­sid­er­ing other op­tions as well. An­other thing that will come up as we head into the cut­ting sea­son is the reap­pear­ance of the Na­tional Farm­ers Union hold­ing pocket meet­ings with farm­ers. The union has been around for awhile now. Farm­ers need to be wary of the agenda that it has. It has been such out­fits who politi­cised our sugar in­dus­try to be­gin with.

The good news is the first mill to start crush­ing, Labasa, is al­ready a suc­cess story in many ways. Hope is that the same suc­cess comes to other mills in the com­ing days as they be­gin crush­ing.

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