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Ex-MP: Cane belt resolution easy if parties knew governing laws

Problems and disputes within the sugar belts could easily be solved if the sector councillors and Fiji Sugar Corporation field officers were well versed with the laws that governed the
05 May 2017 16:16
Ex-MP: Cane belt resolution easy  if parties knew governing laws
Former MP, Gyan Singh, October 2012

Problems and disputes within the sugar belts could easily be solved if the sector councillors and Fiji Sugar Corporation field officers were well versed with the laws that governed the sugar industry.

Veisaru cane grower and former parliamentarian, Gyan Singh, said this would cut the number of disputes that ended up at the Sugar Industry Tribunal (SIT) and the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC).

At the same time, Mr Singh said he had a lot of faith in the sugar industry saying “I know it will not die.”

Mr Singh made his submissions during the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs consultation on 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), at Veisaru Sanatan School in Ba yesterday.

“If a councillor in one sector knows the laws, and works with the FSC field officer, a lot of disputes can be solved at the farms while those that were difficult could then be set up for arbitration to the SIT,” Mr Singh said.

Among the 40 cane farmers or more who turned up there was general consensus and agreement that:

  •  the SIT should remain as it is and function independently without of any interference from anyone.
  •  the Sugar Cane Growers Council and its CEO, Sundresh Chetty, were carrying their duties well
  •  should there be a SCGC elections for all 38 sectors, then only 12,000 active farmers from the total number of 16,000 should vote
  •  all disputes to follow the same procedure presently used and not to be sent to the Permanent Secretary for Sugar
  •  The Master Award to remain as it is with no changes
  •  The retention of Mill Area Committees as they see to the overall functioning of each particular mill

Mr Singh also raised the point in regards to the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF) where he said their work could be diversified to include looking at the mechanisation of sugarcane farming.

“There is a need for qualified people who can teach the farmers’ children how to work the new mechanical harvesters and machines. This will curb the number of young men leaving the cane farms to find employment elsewhere,” he said.

Khalid Ali, of Varoko, said the council should refer all disputes to the tribunal. He also believes there should be more awareness done for farmers on the proposed changes to the Master Award. He also said all 38 councillors who were to be elected by the farmers should be screened first. Jain Kumar, of Rarawai, said there should be no nominees from Government.

Harun Sharma, of Naloto, said there was a lot of interference from Government in the cane industry and the farmers had little say.

He also submitted that the SRIF needed an expert like a scientist from overseas to run the organisation.

On the issue about the board of the Sugar Cane Growers Fund Authority be given powers to invest surplus funds in other areas, Mr Kumar believes this was a good idea.

He said the board should also be authorised to lend funds to farmers co-operatives to buy mechanical harvesters and other machines.

“The co-operatives have applied for loans but were told the board does not have the powers to lend money to such organisations,” he said.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj



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