Fiji Parliament Passes Sugar Industry Amendment Bill

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Producer organizations welcome passage, grows express concerns

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 27, 2015) – While cane producer organisations on Viti Levu welcomed the passing of the Sugarcane Industry Amendment Bill 2015 in Parliament yesterday, individual growers have raised concerns about how the Bill was pushed through without consultations.

Lautoka Cane Producers Association president Praveen Singh said there were many positives from the changes to the Sugar Industry Act.

"We would like to thank the Government for removing the Sugar Cane Growers Council levy and for allowing for the appointment of two representatives from our three cane producer associations onto the council board," he said.

Rarawai Penang Cane Producers Association acting president Girish Kumar also said removing the SCGC levy would result in farmers being able to save some money. However, prominent and productive growers from Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki said there were a number of issues they were not happy with, especially representation since infighting resulted in legal challenges and a case before the court.

The Sugarcane Industry Amendment Bill 2015, which was tabled by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, was passed yesterday after intense debate from both sides of the floor.

Under the new Bill, cane farmers will no longer pay the Sugar Cane Growers Council levy, which raked in about $600,000 to the growers representative organisation's coffers annually. This will now be paid by the Government.

The changes will result in six representatives from the three cane producer organisations — Lautoka, Rarawai-Penang and Labasa — being appointed to the SCGC board.

Other board members will include the commissioners northern and western and a rep from the Sugar Ministry.

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