• National Federation Party

30 October 2015: ABC Pacific Beat – Fiji cane growers furious over tonnage payment of 71 cents


Listen here. Transcript of interview (please check against audio): “CEO, Fiji Cane Growers Association: They are really upset about this because they were expecting they would get at least 6,7 dollars per tonne but when they hear they are only going to receive 71 cents per tonne, its shocking news to the farmers because they have the festive season, they have Diwali and whatever money they had with them they spent in harvesting. Because you know when the crushing season ends then a lot of money is used for harvesting and delivery payments and so on and so forth. So whatever money they had, they used their money for hiring labourers and cartage and the rest of the money which is used for catering the cost. Pacific Beat: There had been high hopes for a good cane harvest at the start of the season? CEO, Fiji Cane Growers Association: You’re right in that because we know that we were expecting a very good price and what we were getting from FSC is that we will be getting a good price. That’s why the farmers took interest in planting and replanting of cane. And the other thing we can see is that the TCTS (inaudible) has improved. So if the TCTS (inaudible) has improved and the cane quality has improved, then I don’t see any reason why the cane price should be going down. Instead if the TCTS (inaudible) improved then the price of the cane should be going up. Pacific Beat: The Opposition National Federation Party which is particularly strong in the cane belt of Viti Levu has put out a press release estimating that the total earnings for 9,000 average growers for the entire season excluding harvesting, delivery and production would be a meagre 5,400 Fiji dollars paid over 16 months effectively leaving cane farmers penniless. Is that estimate accurate? CEO, Fiji Cane Growers Association: Yeah they are. Because if you get that figure we exactly come to know that the majority of the farmers are living below the poverty line. So you can just imagine the struggle and the hardship that the farmers are facing because cartage has gone up, the fuel price is also high and harvesting is very high, very expensive. So its very difficult to get the mechanical harvesters and if we hire the labourers they just don’t want to harvest the cane at a lesser price because what they were harvesting for 13, 14 dollars now they demanding 20 dollars or more than 20 dollars even. Once the farmers come to know before the crushing season begins the actual price, then they would think twice about replanting and planting of cane. But the main problem is that after they delivered their cane, then only they come to know that what price they’ll be given. Pacific Beat: Is this anyone’s fault in particular? Or is just a problem with commodity prices worldwide falling? CEO, Fiji Cane Growers Association: Well actually this is an ongoing problem with the farmers for a long – we have been insisting the FSC, the Sugar Cane Growers Council and other stakeholders to let the farmers know the actual price before the crushing season starts or even 2, 3 years before they should be able to inform the farmers what particular price they will be getting. But assurances are given to the farmers before the crushing start that he’ll be given a good price. But if you are getting 80, 81 dollars per tonne that’s not a good price. Because to my calculation more than 50 dollars a tonne is the overall cost for the farmers to produce cane and send it to the mill. The operational cost is much more than 50 dollars. Pacific Beat: Why would anyone remain a cane farmer if their costs are going to be as much as what they get. That doesn’t make any rational sense? CEO, Fiji Cane Growers Association: Well they don’t have any other option. Simple as that. Because the farmers especially in the Northern Division, in the Western Division they don’t have any other choice. They just relying on the sugar cane industry. If they just go out of the sugar cane industry they don’t have any other way of survival. That’s the only reason they preferring to stay on sugar industry but you know the younger generations are already moving out of the industry and to my thinking, the generation which is already in the sugar industry is the last generation which is going to stay there.”

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