ABOUT 230 inmates of the Fiji Corrections Services are dispatched daily to harvest sugar cane in different sectors of two major divisions.
A total of 12,171.34 tonnes of sugar cane have so far been harvested in Ba, Lautoka, Rakiraki and Labasa since the 2016 ‘Operation Musudovu’ began in mid-July. The highest amount of harvested cane of 6536.07 tonnes has been recorded in Labasa.
With the sugar industry perceived as the backbone of the Fijian economy, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Jo Kulinidilo said the FCS is glad that its community engagement program is able to assist the industry in boosting the economy.
He said FCS would continue to work with Government, the Ministry of Sugar and the Fiji Sugar Corporation to assist farmers and ensure that the lack of manpower in sugar cane harvesting is addressed.
“The FCS hopes members of the public will appreciate and be inspired by the efforts of inmates who, despite their incarceration, are capable of making a difference in society,” DCP Kulinidilo said.
Manager of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Nemani Veikoso has applauded this initiative by FCS saying the inmates are doing a great job in assisting farmers. He said works carried out by the inmates have been productive and efficient compared to those of the ordinary labourers.
A normal day’s production is around 11 tonnes but the inmates are producing more than that on a daily basis with a record harvest of 20.68 tonnes.
65 year-old cane farmer Nokaiya Raju of Nanuku in Ra said the ten inmates deployed to work in his farm are producing two to three times more than the ordinary labourers.
“I have been a farmer all my life. My father was a sugar cane farm too and we established our farm in 1980. This is the first time for me to see more of our canes harvested within a short period of time. Work carried out by the inmates is so efficient,” he said.
“I used to have two labourers and their production in 3-4 months is now produced in less than a month by the inmates.”
Of the total payment received for the work carried out by the inmates, expenses required to facilitate harvesting is deducted first. The balance is divided into a 60:40 ratio where the inmates receive 60 per cent as payment for their labour and 40 per cent is returned to Government.
Meanwhile, members of the public have been reminded to refrain from communicating with inmates working on sugarcane farms.