Minister addresses farmer land lease concerns

March 6, 2024 7:02 am

[File Photo]

Sugar Minister Charan Jeath Singh recently met with cane farmers in Labasa to address issues regarding the renewal of their land leases.

The farmers gathered in Coqeloa, Labasa to raise their concerns and get clarification from TLTB Officials and the Sugar Minister.

There was a lot of misunderstanding among the farmers after the iTaukei Land Trust Board officials gave them forms to apply for housing blocks.

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TLTB’s Estates Officer North, Eri Balenacagi is advising the farmers that the forms are for lease applications for residential housing and not eviction notices.

Balenacagi says this is part of TLTB’s clean-up, as they are updating their system according to the maps.

“When we went to our map team, they saw that some of the leases were not being charted properly. That’s why we came last week to check. At the same time, we will be asking whether you got instrument of tenancy leases, agreement for leases – it’s like we are doing a clean-up here for those who are leasing as agriculture and those who are not leasing as agriculture.”

Sugar Minister Singh says the government is setting aside a lot of money for the sugar industry and any misunderstanding can be costly.

“So when farmers start getting wrong signals from TLTB, and they are not sure whether their lease is going to be renewed. We are saying go ahead and you plant and your lease is going to be renewed, and then TLTB goes and gives a wrong signal, then it gives us a bit of an issue where do we stand as government.”

Singh explains that the government has formed a Taskforce Committee, which, over the past four to five months, has visited farmers and landowners to discuss land lease expiry and renewal.

He states that farmers are requesting a minimum lease term of 50 years or a maximum of 99 years, and this will need to be legislated through a cabinet decision.