A kick in the guts of cane growers
Sunday 19th July 2020
The National Federation Party says the Fiji First Government, in slashing guaranteed price of a tonne of sugarcane by $15 to $70 per tonne, has grossly betrayed the trust and pre-election promise to cane growers of guaranteeing a price of $85 per tonne of cane and kicked the growers and their families in the guts.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says while it is perfectly understandable that collective Cabinet responsibility requires every Minister to agree with Government policies, growers want to know whether the Prime Minister who is also the Minister for Sugar agreed to drastically cut the guaranteed price by $15 per tonne despite repeated assurances by him on the issue at every sugar industry related event to maintain the guaranteed price for three years.
“Then we have many Ministers whose roots are entwined with the cane belts and voting results of the November 2018 elections show that they primarily received their support from these areas behind the PM. Growers also want to know whether they also agreed with the Economy Minister’s budgetary decision to betray the pre-election promise on which they received their endorsement by growers”.
“This came after the NFP had stated in its 2014 elections manifesto that in government it would provide a minimum guaranteed price of $85 per tonne. And due to rising costs, the party offered $100 per tonne to growers, a policy announced 18 months before the November 2018 elections. Twice in 2016 and 2017, Government rejected our Motion in parliament to implement a guaranteed price of $85 and $90 per tonne respectively”.
“So, was the Fiji First policy announced in the 2018-19 budget on 28 June, 2018 purely an election gimmick?”
“Growers and their families are hurt and angry that they have been used as chattels and kicked from pillar to post. The last thing they expected this extremely difficult season, after continuously enduring Fiji Sugar Corporation’s colonialist attitude in terms of paying scant regard to the performance if its mills, is a blow to their income and livelihood by this Government”.
“Growers are also angry and realise that while the industry, together with the agricultural sector, is unaffected by Covid-19 and in prime position to resuscitate the economy, it is them who are made sacrificial lambs and treated like beasts of burden”.
“What this means is that 8,332 or minimum of 70% of active cane growers out of 11,902 active growers, as stated by FSC’s 2019 Annual Report, who produce an average of 142 tonnes of cane or less, will only earn a nett profit of $1,420 per season to be paid over 16 months:”.
“This is after excluding production, harvesting and delivery cost of an average of $60 per tonne of cane. Which business or individual can survive on this paltry income or a profit of $10 for a tonne of goods?”
“At the same time, the PM, who is the Sugar Minister and directly responsible for growers’ welfare because he time and again has refused bipartisanship in resolving their issues, received an average of $3,000 per day as overseas travelling allowance in 2019”.
“That is more than 50% of what an average producing grower receives as nett income in 16 months”.
“This is grossly insulting. Yet the PM’s silence is deafening”.
“Because if this policy is not immediately reversed, it will result in the death of an already staggering industry”
“The NFP will move a Motion during the Budget debate to restore the guaranteed price of $85 per tonne to give the livelihood of growers some stability”.
“Let this serve as notice to those Fiji First MPs who seek their votes from growers and their families because we will inform growers how they were betrayed if these MPs vote against this righteous and just Motion”.