Sugar Research Body Seeks To Continue Autonomy

The Sugar Research Institute of Fiji yesterday tabled before the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs their urgent need to continue operations independently. However, there is a great chance that the
07 May 2016 10:08
Sugar Research Body Seeks To Continue Autonomy
From left: Sugar Research Institute of Fiji acting ceo Sanjay Prakash present at the Standing Committee yesterday. Photo: PAULINI RATULAILAI.

The Sugar Research Institute of Fiji yesterday tabled before the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs their urgent need to continue operations independently.

However, there is a great chance that the institution will come under the umbrella of Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) if the current Reform of Sugarcane Industry Bill 2016 is passed in Parliament.

The institution raised their concern on Part 10 (clause 87-91) of the Bill; on the transfer and acquisition of assets and liabilities to the corporation which had been highlighted as the transfer of SRIF to the corporation.

SRIF acting chief executive officer Sanjay Prakash told members of the committee the Bill explained the repeal of existing acts and transition to the reformed act together with the transfers and amalgamation of industry bodies.

“But it didn’t detail how the whole industry will be structured and how it will operate even though, the act speaks about these bodies continuing with current operations,” Mr Prakash said.

“We feel that there must be a strong institutional and regulatory framework that the Minister for Sugar should promulgate as provided for in the reformed act; the intended framework/regulations to determine how bodies should operate and possibly see SRIF continuing as it is.

“SRIF must remain independent for the purpose of being able to expand and maintain a higher level of research/technological findings, innovation, international publications/collaborations for the benefit of the sugarcane industry,” he said

Mr Prakash said internationally all successful agricultural countries had highly developed research bodies that gave those countries a competitive edge.

“They provide information, new varieties and solutions and help take advantage of research done internationally by knowledge,” he said.

“Since the inception of the agriculture experiment station in 1904 and its subsequent establishment in Lautoka in 1958, CSR and now FSC have been in the position to support research mainly due to the industry’s continuous success in those glory days with research findings and innovations.

“But with the preferential price ending, the corporation began to shift its focus to its core business from ‘a way of life’ to a ‘world competitive business’ thus allowing for the independence of SRIF in 2006.”

Mr Prakash said SRIF had continued to maintain a steady improvement in its research and development advancement largely due to funding through the European Union and ACP-SRP and its strong foundation support by the Government of Fiji, FSC and growers since independence.

He also said it was their understanding that transferring SRIF to FSC would mean that they would no longer be eligible for further EU funding in the near future.

FSC’s executive chairman Abdul Khan said the fund from European Union  (EU) would depend on their project proposals and its success, and there was no need to worry about the funds coming into the industry and it was not an issue.

“The issue here is for us to work together and see that the sugar industry is improved; we have always given assistance to the institution in areas of research,” he said.

The Standing Committee member and National Federation Party leader, Biman Prasad, said if the Bill was passed in Parliament; it could see SRIF coming under the umbrella of FSC.

Meanwhile, Sugar Industry Tribunal Commissioner and Registrar, Timothy Brown, was expected to give in their submissions in writing to the committee before the end of this month.

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