NATION

Farmers Want Sugar Industry Process To Remain The Same

  Sugarcane farmers have strongly urged that all their disputes be given to the Indus­trial Commissioner who will then determine which ones are to go be­fore the Sugar Industry Tribunal
04 May 2017 11:00
Farmers Want Sugar Industry Process To Remain The Same
Shahin Khan of Sigatoka and Nand Kishore of Lautoka during the Sugar select Committee consultations in Lautoka on May 3, 2017. Photo: Charles Chambers

 

Sugarcane farmers have strongly urged that all their disputes be given to the Indus­trial Commissioner who will then determine which ones are to go be­fore the Sugar Industry Tribunal (SIT).

They expressed strong sentiments about their grievances being given to the Permanent Secretary for Sugar as being proposed in the new Bill.

These issues were among those that were presented to the Stand­ing Committee on Economic Af­fairs during its public consultation on Sugar Bills 19-Reform of Sugar Cane Industry Bill 2016 and Bill 20 which is a Bill for an Act to amend the Sugar Cane Growers Fund Act (Cap. 207) in Lautoka yesterday.

Nand Kishore, a farmer of Lovu in Lautoka said he would prefer that all matters pertaining to the SIT re­mained as they were.

Rajesh Kumar of Lovu also echoed similar submissions on this issue.

“I suggest we leave it as it is as we need an independent person in this case,” he said.

Former parliamentarian and Na­tional Farmers Union executive, Udit Narayan, said all matters that dealt with the SIT should be left as it were and this received approvals from farmers who had gathered there.

On the Sugar Cane Growers Coun­cil (SCGC), Mahendra Prasad of Drasa said there was no legal per­son who could help with some of the legal issues brought by farmers.

Committee member, Viliame Ga­voka, asked Mr Prasad whether he felt the SCGC should be a “one stop shop.”

Mr Prasad also said the SCGC should not be political and that all members should be elected through an election.

SCGC chief executive officer, Sun­dresh Chetty, on the request from the chairperson of the committee, Lorna Eden, clarified that the coun­cil used to have a legal person work­ing there.

He said the legal department was mainly busy during pre-crushing each year when farmers wanted their Power of Attorney documents sorted out.

“We had one legal person here but he resigned and we are in the pro­cess of looking for a replacement,” Mr Chetty said, adding this could be solved in two weeks.

MP Prem Singh, who had ex­plained in detail all matters per­taining to the Bills, while talking on the shares at the Fiji Sugar Cor­poration, said Government owned 68 per cent of shares at FSC with the remaining 32 per cent by indi­viduals.

“Government is in the process of buying off the 32 per cent individ­ual shares and will fully own FSC,” Mr Singh said.

“In doing so Government will be assuming all FSC’s debts.”

On other submissions:

n Mohammed Shamim of Lovu said the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji should be given to a univer­sity as they were better suited to do­ing research. The new Bill proposes SRIF to be taken over by FSC. He said FSC should be left to looking after the milling of sugar cane.

n On the Sugar Cane Growers Fund, Mr Shamim said surplus funds within SCGF should be given to farmers to venture into new busi­nesses besides sugar cane farming. It is proposed that SCGF open its lending of funds to outside organi­sations like FSC.

Mr Prasad said only growers should be entitled to loans from the SCGF and no-one else.

n Former SCGC CEO and NFP stalwart, Jaganarth Samy, launched an attack on Government accusing it of being part of the demise of the sugar industry. At one stage Mr Sami also raised a point with all Standing Committee members saying farmers were earning less at the end of each season while they (committee members) were receiv­ing around $200 allowance a day.

n Shalini Khan, a cane farmer and president of the Sigatoka Cane Harvesters Association, submitted growers elect their own reps to the SCGC, the SCGF should be in a po­sition to assist all growers during disasters and the maintenance of excess roads.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

 

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