Fiji Sugar Cane Growers Decry Industry Reform Bill

Association says farmers will leave industry if passed

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 20, 2016) – Sugarcane farmers will leave the industry if the reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill is passed in Parliament and implemented on the ground, the Fiji Cane Growers Association has cautioned.

In a submission to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs delivered in Ba last week, association president Attar Singh said it would be unwise of the Government to ignore the overwhelming objection to the Bill from farmers and lorry operators.

"A feeling of disenchantment is undoubtedly being felt by the growers, their families, the canecutters, lorry operators, lorry drivers, labourers and farmhands," he said.

"This Bill is the biggest disincentive for a segment of Fiji's population who have sacrificed their livelihood and triumphant days to ensure the sugar industry remained the lifeblood of Fiji's economy for over a 100 years."

Mr Singh added the Sugar Industry Act had to be retained and the structure of the Sugar Cane Growers Council that existed before the 2006 takeover be restored.

"Growers, through the SCGC, must have a say in the marketing of sugar and other matters of importance that affect their livelihood.

"If this Bill is not shelved, then Government should expect more growers to exit the sugar industry and a sharp decline in cane production because of the enslavement of growers."

Addressing growers at the consultations, standing committee chairperson Lorna Eden said it was important that stakeholders understood the urgency of the Bill. She said the industry was in a crisis and urgent action was needed to ensure the sustainable longevity of the sugar sector because of the 200,000 people who relied on it for their livelihood and survival.

Fiji Times Online.
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