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A-G: Government Wants Sugar To Return As A Major Earner

A-G: Government Wants Sugar To Return As A Major Earner
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with farmers at the launch. Photo: Charles Chambers
July 28
11:00 2017

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the Government is doing its best to restore the same confidence which prevailed in the sugar industry when it was the backbone of the economy.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also Minister for Economy, made the remarks yesterday when  he commissioned Yako/Nalovi Canefarmers Co-operative’s new $342,000 mechanical harvester, at Yako, Nadroga.

Under a Government initiative, cane farming co-operatives are assisted with a $90,000 Government grant and a loan from the Fiji Development Bank to buy the harvester.

The co-operative has 32 farmers and each contributed $2000 for the purchase.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said yesterday was a momentous occasion and there would be 41 of these machines in Fiji by the end of this month.

“By the beginning of next year we will have another 20 so we have 61 machines,” he said.

“As you know in the Budget we have announced new measures but with the measures we want to make sure we have the right circumstances, the right fundamentals before these mechanisation and assistance can be given.

“Over the years a number of people have left the cane farming sector, some of whom because of their land leases not renewed.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said an example was in Vanua Levu where production fell by 50 per cent because of the non-renewal of leases.

He said many of these families were now living in Nasinu driving taxi and doing other work.

He said Government had allocated $5m for new cane planting and this could attract those displaced farmers back.

“We need to take a collaborative approach and the honourable Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has mentioned before we need to de-politicise the cane belts,” he said.

He told the farmers that Government had investment $90,000 in the mechanical cane harvester not because they belong to a political party but because it was the job of the Government. He said any Government should provide the right tools and environment to give people confidence to  do their best.

He said there had been lot of talks on the price of cane.

“We talk about the cost of cane production as any cane farmer will tell you the main thing is the cost of production,” he said.

“If the cost of production is a percentage of what you are going to get as far as your cane price is concerned and reduced you will be able to make a big margin.

“People talk about getting $100 a tonne but if your cost is $90 per tonne what is the point of getting $100 a tonne.

“Today in Fiji we have many years of neglect of the cane industry and what we are trying to do is to bring back that level of confidence.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was common knowledge that carting cane by lorries was expensive.

He said India had the largest railway system in the world and Fiji was negotiating with the Indian government to help Fiji with the railway system.

“There is an enormous opportunity not only for carting of sugar cane through rail but other economic benefits,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum requested the co-operative to run their business well. Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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