The start of the 2009 crushing season at Fiji's smallest and oldest sugar mill, Penang in Rakiraki, has been delayed, supposedly because of low cane supply.
The mill was supposed to start crushing on Tuesday, with harvesting starting a day earlier.
But on Monday the Fiji Sugar Corporation Chief Executive Deo Saran released a statement saying crushing would be delayed until tommorrow, because of flash flooding.
However, sources say there's no way crushing will even start tommorrow and the heavy downpour is not the only reason.
Coupfourpointfive has been told that a very low cane supply is the main cause of the delay.
The mill needs a supply of 800 tones of cane to kick off crushing.
But until this afternoon only eight cane lorries had delivered their load to the mill, which at best is about 80-100 tonnes.
Sources say the other reason for the delay is because not all harvesting gangs have signed the Memorandum of Gang Agreements(MOGA).
Eighty percent of MOGA's in a mill area should be signed by harvesting gangs but on Monday only 48 percent had signed up.
This morning the number of gangs who had submitted their MOGA increased to 107(63%) and late this afternoon it rose slightly to 113(67%), but still well below the 80 percent needed by tommorrow.
Sources say the lack of interest is because cane lorry owners (truck)are unhappy about the imposition of the road user levy and conditions set by the interim regime.
They have to pay the government an average of $750 a year, if they carry 10 tonnes of cane, at $75 a tonne.
A few weeks ago, the interim Minister for Transport ordered lorry operators to pay 6 months wheel tax and 6 months road user levy but surrender their lorry number plates to the Land Transport Agency after the end of crushing season.
Sources say another alternative given by the interim minister today was for lorry owners to pay 6 months road user levy and 9 months of wheel tax, if they wanted to use their lorries as transport throughout the year.
But the lorry owners want the levy quashed because of rising costs and a declining price of cane.