Government's betrayal of promise to growers driving them into 'Abject poverty'.
Wednesday 4th November 2020
“Betrayal of promises to cane growers like the latest one where Government short-changed growers by $2.79 per tonne of cane from the guaranteed price of $85 per tonne will result in driving growers further into abject poverty and lead to total collapse of the sugar industry”.
This is the dire warning sounded by National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad while responding to a recent statement by the Attorney General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
“His description as mis-information, concerns raised by me last week on behalf of growers, was irrefutable evidence of the industry being “painfully razed to ashes” by the military and Fiji First governments for almost 14 years since December 2006”.
“The reality is that those responsible for the industry cannot differentiate the root of a sugarcane stalk from its top”.
“This has resulted in the industry plummeting to almost 50% of what it was before December 2006. And it is confirmed by the decline in cane and sugar production statistics and the fact that the number of active growers have declined by a little over 6,000 from over 18,000 in 2006 to less than 12,000 in 2018”.
“And yet this government behaves like everything is normal:”.
“Whenever I point out the truth and Government’s betrayal of promises to growers, the Minister says I am politicising the issue”.
“The truth is government is not answering the simple question that I raised and that was why it has betrayed growers despite announcing on 26th March during delivery of the Covid-19 Response Budget that government will keep its word following a promise made to farmers on ensuring payment of a guaranteed price of $85 per tonne of cane”.
“This is what growers are demanding and clearly see government is dodging the issue by ridiculously distorting the meaning of guaranteed price and twisting the Master Award provisions in respect of deductions for industry expenses for purposes of marketing and research in which growers have no say whatsoever after the dissolution of the Sugar Cane Growers Council 11 years ago in 2009”.
“$2.79 per tonne of cane is a significant amount and based on the 2019 total sugarcane crop of 1 million-806 thousand-379 tonnes (1,806,379), growers have lost almost $5.04 million in income”.
“It must be understood by everyone that 70% of our cane growers, which is 8,330 out of 11,902 growers according to FSC’s 2019 Annual Report statistics for 2018, are regarded as average growers producing an average of 142 tonnes per season”.
“At a minimum average cost of production, harvesting and delivery of a tonne of cane of $60, growers will only earn a net profit of $22.21 cents”.
“This means 8,330 growers would earn a net income of $3,153.82 for a season paid over a 16 month period”.
“Six years ago , the 2013-14 Household Income and Expenditure Survey established the baseline poverty income to be $11,440 per annum or $220 per week. Undoubtedly, this has increased in the last six years”.
“Therefore, the net income of $3,153.52 for 8,330 growers is $9,286.08 less than the 2013-14 baseline poverty income of $11,440. It also means these growers earn a net income of just over $60 per week, $160 less than the weekly 2013-14 baseline income of $220”.
“This net income of 8,330 growers earned over a 16-month period is even $50 less than the daily overseas allowance a Cabinet Minister receives while on official visit to New York”.
“If this isn’t abject poverty, what is?”
Professor Biman Prasad