Opinion

NFP’s plans on land, sugar

NFP recognises that land and the issue of agricultural leases has always been contentious and a source of bitter and acrimonious debates. NFP has in the past strongly advocated for
16 Aug 2014 19:24

NFP recognises that land and the issue of agricultural leases has always been

contentious and a source of bitter and acrimonious debates.

NFP has in the past strongly advocated for a lasting solution to the issue of expiring land leases.

NFP recognises the need for dialogue and partnership between landlord and tenants for an amicable solution to the iTaukei land lease issue.

Master lease concept

NFP will promote a master lease concept in which government leases all available agricultural land from landowners and then re-leases it to tenant farmers for a minimum tenure of 50 years. We will push for agricultural and residential tenants leasing Crown C land to be given the option to buy the land at a fair price following valuation of the unimproved capital value of the land. The master lease does not deal with commercial lease.

NFP will ensure there is certainty and confidence for both the tenants and landowners. In the 25th year of the lease, government will assess the future of the lease after its expiry. If it is assessed that the landowning unit will need the land for its use in future, then the tenant is informed that the lease will not be renewed upon its expiry in the 50th year. The lessee then has 25 years to plan the future. If it is assessed that the landowner will not require the land under lease, then the lease will have a statutory extension of a period of a further 25 years.

NFP in government will lease land under Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) from the landowners at fair rental that will be prescribed to a premium rate of 10 per cent of Unimproved Capital Value (UCV) bearing in mind the class of land. Government will re-lease land to tenant farmers under Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA) to maximum of six per cent UCV based on the class of land.

The four per cent difference in rental will be subsidised by government.

Entrenchment

Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) and Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (ALTA) are no longer entrenched in the Constitution. NLTA and ALTA have been entrenched in every constitution since Independence, namely the 1970, 1990 and 1997 constitutions. This was done to prevent any government from making ad hoc amendments to both legislations. It required two third majorities in parliament with powers to veto any amendments vested in nominees of Great Council of Chiefs in the Senate. Entrenchment of NLTA and ALTA are necessary as it provides a sense of security and guarantee to both landowners and tenants.

NFP will seek amendments to the 2013 Constitution through dialogue in Parliament with a view to entrenching ALTA, NLTA and Group Rights.

State of the Sugar Industry

The sugar industry has been at the core of the Fijian economy for the past 125 years. However, the 2006 military coup has seriously deteriorated the industry. In 2006 Fiji produced 3.2 million tonnes of sugarcane and 310,000 tonnes of sugar. In 2013, cane production declined to 1.6 million tonnes and sugar production declined to 179,000 tonnes. The increasing cost of cane production, harvesting and delivery to the mills, the uncertainty caused by the coup and the loss of European Union grant of $274 million over a seven-year period are the major factors eroding the confidence of cane growers leading to declining production. As a party that rescued cane growers from the shackles of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd, the NFP is the only Party that has the leadership, skills and expertise necessary to revive the industry and enhance the livelihood of 200,000 directly or indirectly dependent on the sugar industry.

Re-vitalising the sugar industry

NFP will ensure that the restructure of the industry is completed for future sustainability of the industry.

NFP will focus on policies/incentives aimed at reducing production costs which include increased production per unit area using high yielding varieties and increasing planting and efficient transportation of cane.

NFP will provide further support to the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji towards research and development that is essential to long term sustainability and growth of the industry.

NFP will develop a four-year programme for the rehabilitation of farms by implementing policies to reduce the cost of production and raise incomes of the farmers.

NFP will undertake reforms to the cane harvesting and transportation operations to reduce costs to farmers.

NFP will restore democratically elected Sugar Cane Growers Council.

NFP will ensure efficient and regular maintenance of cane access roads.

NFP will provide growers with subsidy up to 50 per cent for inputs such as fertilizer and weedicides.

NFP will implement a minimum guaranteed price for cane of $85 per tonne.

 The opinions expressed in this column are those of the National Federation Party. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the general elections.

newsroom@fijisun.com.fj

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