NATION

Farmers Raise Concerns with FSC

  Rakiraki farmers had a chance to meet with members of the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs and the Fiji Sugar Corporation following yesterday’s consultations at Rakiraki. This was after
30 Jun 2016 12:48
Farmers Raise  Concerns with FSC
Fiji Sugar Corporation’s general manager operations Mikaele Biukoto, answers a query from Rakiraki farmer and businessman George Shiu Raj (left) during consultations in Rakiraki. Photo: Charles Chambers

 

Rakiraki farmers had a chance to meet with members of the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs and the Fiji Sugar Corporation following yesterday’s consultations at Rakiraki.

This was after farmers raised their concerns about transporting their cane to Rarawai Mill in Ba after the closure of Penang Mill.

Concerns ranged from the costs of loading and offloading sugar cane at Rarawai and that there would be no cartage of cane by rail system.

FSC was represented by its general manager operations Mikaele Biukoto with farmers headed by businessman and former politician George Shiu Raj.

Mr Shiu Raj, who also owns sugar cane farms, had questioned the costs of loading and offloading being borne by the farmers.

He also raised the issue of Land Transport Authority booking drivers with overloaded cane trucks as farmers looked at means to save costs.

Government has agreed to subsidise the transportation of cane from Rakiraki to Ba after the closure of the Penang Mill from damage sustained through Cyclone Winston.

He also raised the issue of a standing regulation that each farm must have 10 acres for sugar cane planting to be able to be a supplier to FSC.

“What if those farmers who have between 5 to 9.9 acres but cannot supply cane,” Mr Shiu Raj asked.

Mr Biukoto, on advice from a staff of the Sugar Industry Tribunal, said FSC would accept cane from farmers who have as low as five acres so long as they are able to produce 200 tonnes of cane.

He said farmers who have less than 10 acres cane apply to the tribunal “and the prerogative is with the tribunal on whether they will accept.”

Mr Shiu Raj also questioned why Government did not have a pension scheme for farmers.

“When a farmer passes away, there is no compensation given to his family and yet these farmers have been the backbone of the sugar industry.”

Another farmer, Kamla Prasad of Nanuku, in reference to the Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016 (Bill No. 20 of 2016), said loans given to farmers following the devastation of TC Winston should be converted to grants.

He said farmers were charged six per cent interest on these loans and this placed an added burden on them.

Mr Prasad also called on the Sugar Cane Growers Council to have sector officers in all 38 sectors of the sugar cane belt.

He said the present number of SCGC sector officers were incapable of handling the grievances of all the cane farmers in the country.

Edited by Manasa Kalouniviti

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

 

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