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Old-style Politics In Cane Fields Is Losing Out

Old-style Politics In Cane Fields Is Losing Out
May 20
11:00 2017

ANALYSIS:The battle of wills in the cane fields is turning – in Government’s favour.

And Opposition party politics which ruled the industry even as far back as the colonial days is near its deathbed.

Cane farmers have finally realised that empty political rhetoric’s that sound good but lack substance do no good today for their welfare and wellbeing.

Farmers from both sides of the political divide, interviewed in a random survey, show they know what they want, not what politicians tell them.

The farmers know when politicians’ demands are unrealistic because the farmers are “at the coalface” of the industry every day. (Cambridge English Dictionary: At the coalface –  Doing the work involved in a job, in real working conditions, not talking about it.)

When they see the Government announce a $10 million assistance package for them, this is no dream. This is real and it relieves them of paying expenses and loans.

Now they can sleep easy and focus on their new season with more confidence and hope.

They can focus on the planting season knowing that their finances have been taken care of.

The impending death of old-style politics within the sugarcane community is now becoming a reality, farmers are actually saying.

Who needs politics when they are now being assisted by Government?

Without hesitation, Government, knowing the impact TC Winston had on the farming community, made allocations in the National Budget to assist the farmers recover last year.

 

The Budget allocations included:

Providing $5 million to the Sugar Development Programme which catered for cane development grant and cash-back incentive initiatives. The Cane Development Grant assists farmers with large sections of uncultivated land and new growers that require start-up capital. A total of 3800 hectares are projected to be planted with new sugarcane under this initiative. The Cash-back Incentive incentivises farmers to plant new cane by providing them a grant of up to $1,800 per hectare. This scheme is expected to result in the cultivation of an additional 5000 hectares of sugarcane.

Support for irrigation for farmers who were affected during the prolonged drought seasons by providing $1.5 million towards this initiative.

The Ministry of Sugar is currently working on the digitisation of sugarcane sectors using satellite Global Positioning System (GPS). The digitisation of the sugarcane sectors will enable Government to capture and store information such as precise parameters of sugarcane farms, unplanted land, soil type, climatic data, distance to mills and road conditions. This will enable real time decision making regarding the sugarcane industry by providing much more accurate crop and production statistics. For 2016, Government has provided an allocation of $0.6 million towards this project.

The provision of $3 million for the improvement of cane access roads: Government continues to provide funding support for improving cane access roads for a smoother flow and uninterrupted transportation of harvested cane to the mills.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation will pay all transportation costs for the transportation of harvested cane from Rakiraki to the Rarawai Mill in Ba.

This week Government announced $2 million to assist farmers purchase their own mechanical harvesters through their respective co-operatives.

The same day, Government announced a further $10 million to help farmers pay off loans and debt to the Sugar Cane Growers Fund and other institutions.

This substantial assistance is now beginning to have an impact with farmers who are saying – “Yes, this Government cares for us. Enough with politics.”

“Right from my grandfather’s time, I have never come across any Government assisting us cane farmers like this.”

“Please, thank the Government.”

These were the sentiments echoed by the farmers during a survey of the cane fields and co-operative heads after they signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the purchase of mechanical harvesters. The honest views speak for themselves.

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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