March 29, 2013

Talks to iron out lease issues

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, March 29, 2013

SUGAR industry stakeholders will meet with representatives from the iTaukei Land Trust Board to discuss the possibility of fast-tracking cane land lease renewals.

In an interview yesterday, Sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said the slow process of leases had been highlighted at most of the sugar stakeholders consultations with growers over the past few weeks.

"One of government's plans is to secure land tenure. However, one of the biggest hurdles for us at the moment is the entrenched legislation that is the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA)," Lt-Col Vaniqi said.

"That is why we are promoting the land bank because this offers growers a 50 to 99-year lease and gives landlords a better return for the use of their land," he said.

"We have a lot of land that is idle and the landowners concerned are eager to renew leases or issue new leases but we have discovered that the process is the main issue.

"People are complaining about the long and tedious process and that is why we are meeting with the TLTB next week to see if we can speed up the process."

During stakeholders consultations with cane growers in the Western Division over the past weeks, farmers had raised the slow process as a major drawback for them.

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