SUNBIZ

PM To Sugar Industry: 29 Months, Work Together

The countdown has begun. We now have only 29 months after which our sugar exports will no longer get European Union preferential market access. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday called
30 Apr 2015 11:26
PM To Sugar Industry: 29 Months, Work Together

The countdown has begun. We now have only 29 months after which our sugar exports will no longer get European Union preferential market access.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday called all stakeholders to put aside their differences and work together to ensure the survivability of our sugar cane industry.

“We need to make every single month count in our collective effort to ensure not only the survivability of our industry but to cement a sustained future,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama has called for more efficiency, more diversification, more attempts to secure new markets, more hard work on the part of everyone.

These comments were made at the workshop for Government agencies and non-government entities for reforms in the sugar cane industry.

Mr Bainimarama said having all the industry stakeholders together recogonised an important principal which was that no one can operate in isolation.

“We need a holistic approach to resolving the issues the Industry faces in the lead up to 2017, when we will lose the current access we have to the European Union,” he said.

“What happens in the next two years will, in many ways, determine the future viability of our industry (sugar cane) in Fiji.

“And only by working together in a very methodical and focused manner are we going to be able to meet these challenges.”

 

Concerted efforts

The need for a holistic approach from both the public and private sectors of the economy has been called for in order to resolve the issues before us.

“The sugar cane industry is at a crossroads where its survival and future sustainability depends on us – all of us – putting our heads together and mapping out a clear path forward,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“In essence, this is the objective of our gathering here this morning and it is impossible to overestimate the importance of the task before us.

“We need to consistently appraise, assess and review our systems and procedures to ensure they deliver the best possible result for the industry and the 200,000 Fijians whose livelihoods depend on it.

“If we don’t, we will find ourselves being swamped by events and could easily fail the ordinary Fijian men and women who are looking to us for answers.

“I for one am not prepared to let them down and I know that neither are any of you.”

Mr Bainimarama stressed for too long, successive Governments had left sugar to fend for itself.

“They failed to modernise, failed to reinvest. They took it for granted that there would always be buyers for Fijian sugar when the truth is we need to be efficient enough to compete with sugar producers the world over,” he stated.

 

Outcomes and plans

The Prime Minister has warned we cannot allow the positive results recently to delude us into being complacent.

“We need to ensure that these results are sustainable and work as hard as we can to maximise our chances of keeping the Industry in a healthy state,” he said.

“We have moved from the Deloitte Report Reform Agenda in 2011 and 2012 and are midway through implementing the Industry Strategic Action Plan 2013 to 2017.”

 

Containing costs

Mr Bainimarama said apart from the reduction in price for sugar, we urgently need to address issues on the domestic front such as the cost of farming and the cost of milling.

“We need to explore all avenues to contain costs – a challenge not only peculiar to Fiji but to every sugar producing country across the world,” he said.

“This includes agro-inputs such as labour, preparation, seed cane, fertilisers, weedicides and insecticides.

“The high cost of harvesting and transportation is also a pressing issue, as is the continuing need to improve the performance of our mills.”

While sugar production ratios have improved, Mr Bainimarama said we still need to improve the ratio further to improve our competitiveness in the world market.

“As well as examining ways to reduce our costs, we also need to improve productivity and raise our level of efficiency, again both in the field and at our mills,” he said.

He urged the workshop participants to focus on fresh and innovative ideas about how we can collectively get our industry through 2017 and beyond.

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