NFP Leader calls for widespread consultations on Sugar Cane Industry Reform Bill
The Parliamentary Standing Committee is meeting to discuss the draconian Sugar Cane Industry Reform Bill and the Sugar Cane Growers Fund Amendment Bill. The Reform Bill will replace the Sugar Industry Act of 1984 and if passed it is more than likely the Government will change the Master Award, further enslaving cane growers.
Call for sugar talks Felix Chaudhary. The Fiji Times. Friday 6 May, 2016
THE NFP has called for widespread and detailed consultations on the reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill.
Speaking in Parliament last week Thursday, party leader Professor Biman Prasad also called on the findings by Dr Sitiveni Ratuva, a consultant hired to look at a proposed review of the Sugar Industry Master Award, to be made available for scrutiny.
The NFP leader said any amendment to legislation governing the sugarcane industry had to ensure the biggest stakeholders, the farmers, had a say in the decision-making process.
“I think it is important when we abolished the Sugar Cane Growers Council, we have a new structure,” he said.
“We have talked about it being unrepresented of the growers and that the voice of the growers was taken away.”
So from that point of view, we feel that once the Bill goes to the Standing Committee that there would be a lot more consultation with the wider group of farmers in terms of some of the issues that they have.”
On loans and guarantees to FSC, particularly loans, I am sure that the committee will look at the actual details of what they are, in terms of the proposed conversion of the minority shareholders to Government.” So, those are some of the issues that I think would need thorough scrutiny within the Standing Committee.”
Fellow NFP party member Prem Singh acknowledged the Attorney-General for presenting the Bill in Parliament.
He also reiterated Prof Prasad’s call for the Ratuva Report to be made “This is a major amendment, Government will apply for 100 per cent shares in FSC and the industry as a whole,” said Mr Singh.
“So, basically it will be a government company and these reports with various recommendations will come in handy.
“The only thing I have to say and appeal to the canefarmers of this country through this is that, they have an opportunity now to make submissions on this Bill when it goes to the committee and they should not miss this opportunity because this Bill has many salient features which would require some expert advice and I urge them to take appropriate stand and do not miss this boat.”
Mixed reactions Felix Chaudhary. Friday, May 6, 2016
THERE have been mixed reactions recorded across the sugarcane sector to Government’s reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill.
Organisations representing sugarcane growers — the National Farmers Union and Rarawai Penang Cane Producers Association — have raised concerns about the manner in which the Bill was constructed while the National Federation Party said it was important farmers understood how the Bill would affect them.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum unveiled details of the Bill in Parliament on Thursday.
Government says the objectives of the Bill are to establish the Sugar Industry Tribunal, the Sugar Cane Growers Council and Mill Area Committees.
The Bill aims to promote the efficiency and development of the Industry by streamlining the Industry’s operational processes and to co-ordinate the activities of all sections of the industry and promote goodwill and harmony between such sections.
The document also aims to prescribe standard provisions governing the mutual rights and obligations of the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the registered growers and to provide for the keeping of an official Register of Growers.
The Bill says provisions will be established with the view to preventing and settling all disputes within the industry by amicable agreement.
The Bill also outlined plans to convert all current Government loans to the FSC and the related accrued interests into equity and for the Government to acquire all remaining shares of the corporation.
In terms of streamlining and reducing bureaucracy, Government has proposed moving the Sugar Industry Tribunal to the Sugar Ministry.
Under the proposal, the positions of Registrar of Tribunal and Industrial Commissioner will be dis-established.
Government is also proposing that the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF) come under the umbrella of the FSC with all assets, interests, rights, privileges, liabilities and obligations of SRIF to be transferred to and vested with the Corporation.
The Bill will also establish provisions in the Sugar Cane Growers Council for the industry to be able to levy farmers for any capital works project or any special purpose.
Deductions for the levy will be made from growers proceeds by the FSC under the new Bill.
The reform document also proposes that all loans to South Pacific Fertilisers be converted to shares to be held by the Government.