Fiji Sugar Producers Face Tough Times Ahead

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Tradition buyer will cease purchasing Fairtrade sugar

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 12, 2015) – Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO Sundresh Chetty urged the country's three cane producer associations to stand united in the wake of being informed by traditional sugar buyer Tate & Lyle Sugars that they will cease purchasing Fairtrade sugar from Fiji beginning in October this year.

"While this is a major issue for farmers and the communities that have benefitted from the $25million [US$12 million] that has been paid out over the past four years, this is not the end of the world," he said.

"The SCGC, together with the government and industry stakeholders were the ones that instigated the Fairtrade platform for Fiji and while Tate & Lyle's decision to cease buying sugar at a premium is unfortunate. We have to discuss the way forward rather than look at the doom and gloom of what will happen when it ends."

Mr Chetty said there were other issues that also needed to be addressed with urgency, if the industry was to remain competitive once the preferential quota access ended in October 2013.

"There are a lot of challenges like markets, the rising cost of production transport and harvesting and the resistance from some growers to modernisation and mechanisation of the industry.

"All growers have to embrace mechanisation and modernisation because labour issues will continue and we will not be able to increase our yield per acre if we rely on traditional farming methods."

Representatives from the Labasa, Lautoka and Rarawai-Penang Cane producer associations unanimously agreed to work together and with the government to address the Fairtrade issue and to improve production.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Times reported that ‘Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand will continue to assist Fiji's three cane producer associations despite Tate & Lyle Sugars' decision to cease buying local raw sugar. ... Fairtrade ANZ chief executive officer Molly Harriss Olson made known its intention to continue assisting the associations in Labasa, Lautoka and Rarawai-Penang.’]

An emergency meeting of the country's three cane producer associations — Labasa, Lautoka and Rarawai-Penang — was facilitated by the Network of Asia Pacific Producers and chaired by local representative Praveen Singh.

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