$10m Subsidy For Cane Farmers

Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday announced a $10 million subsidy for cane farmers. And he appealed to them: “Do not get misled by people making false promises – people
16 May 2017 11:00
$10m Subsidy For Cane Farmers
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’

Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday announced a $10 million subsidy for cane farmers.

And he appealed to them: “Do not get misled by people making false promises – people who are building castles in the sky.” He said they were unrealistic.

He said the subsidy “is the kind of tangible assistance that the Government can provide, is providing and will continue to provide.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed that there would be no deduction when farmers received their 4th Cane Payment this Friday.

He said the Sugar Tribunal, as per the Master Award, had announced the 4th cane payment of $10.57.

He said this would take the total cane payment to $72.41 for the 2016 crop. He said: “As a result of this determination, total of approximately $14.57 million will be paid by this Friday.

“However, Government has also noticed that out of this $14.57 nearly $6.7 million will be deducted from individual cane farmers for respective payment they have to make to organisations.”

He said the organisations included the iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Development Bank, Lands Department and the South Pacific Fertilisers.

“Given the fact that many have suffered because of Cyclone Winston Government has decided with FSC that because of Cyclone Winston, Government will pick up payment of deductions of $6.7 million. None of the farmers will actually have any deduction made from  the 4th cane payment. Not by way of a loan but by way of a grant.”

He said this would ensure they had enough funds to be able to deploy as much funds as possible for next cane season and had enough funds for their planting and themselves.

In addition, he said, Government also recognised the fact that farmers from Rakiraki to Lautoka each took out a loan of $1000 from the Sugar Cane Growers Fund after Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The loan amounted to more than $3 million. Government would also pay for it.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “All in all we are looking at  $10 million that Government will be paying these farmers essentially to provide relief to them because of the effects of TC Winston and we also need to ensure that they have the funding available to divert these funds for the next growing season,” he said.

He said Government was talking to the new FSC management team on a number of initiatives to carry out a number of substantial reforms.

He said this would not only ensure that we get cane production increase but to be able to get some long term structural changes that would reduce the cost for the farmers in respect of not  just in terms of production but the harvesting of the cane.

He said substantial issues that needed to be addressed included some of the cane cutters who had a monopolistic position and improvement of the rail systems.

Unfortunately, he said, many of the issues that had come to the fore, it was the Fiji Times that essentially created a lot of  disquiet.

“So all of this noise, whipping up of a frenzy by certain reporters particularly from the Fiji Times was completely out of place.” He accused the Fiji Times of mischief-making and having an agenda.

Fred Wesley, editor in chief of The Fiji Times, said: “The Fiji Times’ agenda is to present news in a fair and accurate manner. Our charter is to strive for accuracy and balance with the intention to do justice to every story we print and picture we use. It is unfortunate that we have been attacked again.

“We do not have any agenda on issues regarding sugar cane farmers and the industry itself, except to be their voice on issues that concern them. And that is what we strive to do every day – to be the voice of the people.

“We strive to offer people, regardless of their political leanings, or status in society, a platform to voice their concerns and have a say. We will continue to work hard at being a good and responsible newspaper.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “I think many of the farmers of course want the issues to be focused upon. They want to be able to ensure their day to day issues are resolved. They want those structural changes.  But unfortunately many of the farmers  have  been used as football by many of these people coming and offering different. They make false promises, really taking them for  a ride  and also making them focus on one particular aspect without getting them to focus on the entire industry holistically. I think that is the issue that we face.

“Politicians like Biman Prasad, Mahendra Chaudhry  and others are going around again using these farmers and spreading misinformation.

“These people are not concerned about  the farmers. They do not care fundamentally about the farmers. What they care about is their own political mileage.”

“We have remained quiet. We have not ventured into any political statements regarding that but we have simply focused on the work that requires attention .We simply focus on the reforms  that require attention.” Neither National Federation Party leader Mr Prasad nor Fiji Labour Party leader Mr Chaudhry could be reached to comment last night.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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