Unknown to cane farmers and the rest of Fiji because of media censorship, the initiation of crushing for the 2009 season at Rarawai mill last Friday, by interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, was a hoax and publicity stunt.
Sources have established that the load of sugarcane that Bainimarama tipped to signal the start of crushing was not crushed, along with about 3000 tonnes of cane harvested by farmers in the mill area from the Ba and Tavua districts.
While the media reported that the Rarawai mill had started crushing after Bainimarama launched it, they have not been able to report that it was a cheap publicity stunt to signal normality in the sugar industry.
Just like Penang, Labasa and Lautoka mills failed to start on the due date due to mechanical failures, Rarawai mill also did not crush any cane for more than four days since last Friday – including the load of cane tipped by Bainimarama.
The mill started crushing at 3pm on Monday but is likely to experience continuous breakdowns like Lautoka mill.
During the publicity stunt ceremony, Fiji Sugar Corporation Chairman Gautam Ramswarup castigated critics for complaining about mill performance and claimed only 15% of mill upgrade works that were worth $86 million are pending for completion this year.
However, Ramswarup’s claim is also a lie given the mill breakdowns and the stage managed drama to show that the Rarawai mill had started crushing.