Cane growers, lorry operators protest LTA’s decision

Sugar Cane trucks line up at the Lautoka Mill. Picture: FILE/REINAL CHAND

TWO hundred canegrowers and lorry operators protested the Land Transport Authority’s decision to impose a 16.5 tonne weight limit and $1000 per tonne fine for overladen trucks by not delivering cane on the first day of crush at the Labasa mill.

Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) CEO Graham Clark described yesterday’s supply as “very little” but said he was positive of another successful season.

He met behind closed doors with LTA chief executive officer Samuel Simpson and Labasa Lorry Association general secretary Mohammed Idrish to discuss the issue in attempts to resume cane supply as soon as possible.

Mr Idrish said although they had agreed to comply with the 16.5 tonne limit, lorry operators would have the final say on the issue because they were at the losing end of the bargain.

Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Yogesh Karan has called on the northern truckies to follow the lead of westerners who have promised to deliver cane when the Lautoka mill begins crushing today.

MEMBERS of the Labasa Lorry Association will decide in a meeting today (Thursday) whether to resume cane supply to the mill after 200 signed a petition against the limited weight restriction.

Although the association executives have agreed to comply with the 16.5 tonnes weight restriction on cane trucks, general secretary Mohammed Idrish said their members would have the final say.

In the opening of the mill yesterday, no trucks were on site to deliver cane except for a tractor belonging to a new iTaukei farmer who was unaware of the weight restriction.

Mr Idrish met the chief executive officer of Fiji Sugar Corporation, Graham Clark, and Land Transport Authority CEO Samuel Simpson at the Labasa mill premises to discuss the issue.

While the meeting had been described as fruitful, Mr Idrish maintained that their members would make the final decision because they would suffer as a result of this weight limitation.

“But at the same time, we know that we can’t fight against the law and we need to comply, but we will meet tomorrow (today) to inform them about the result of the meeting,” he said.

“We will also take their views and hope to get a positive feedback. Our counterparts in Viti Levu have agreed to the 16.5 tonnes and we have agreed during the meeting as well.

“But we need to inform our members and we hope for a positive outcome because the purpose of this weight restriction is not to affect anyone but is for everyone’s benefit.

“This is a big loss though for farmers as it will have high expenses for them.”

Mr Idrish said they had assured LTA that they would work within the dimension of cane loads on trucks which was 11 feet by 3 metres in length (on truck trays).

“But if it varies, we have asked LTA not to fine the lorry drivers because we don’t have the equipment to weigh the cane load on the farms before taking it to the mill.”

Questions sent to LTA’s CEO Mr Simpson remained unanswered.

Mr Clark described their meeting as a fruitful one and hoped for a positive feedback from lorry drivers.

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