All posts by nfp1

Village By-Laws Will Be Revoked by an NFP Government

MEDIA RELEASE: April 7, 2017

National Federation Party Leader Hon Professor Biman Prasad says the revocation of the Village By-Laws will be a high priority of an NFP Government because it disenfranchises the rural  i Taukei community.

Professor Prasad has described the Village By-Laws as an agenda of the Fiji First Government to control and coerce people into accepting their imposition.

“We expect the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission to investigate whether the by-law’s are discriminatory and will marginalise our rural i Taukei communities.”

“The Government’s sponsorship of the by-laws points to an attempt to unilaterally force an issue that addresses social issues that are prevalent all over the country, and is not solely limited to villages alone.”

“If the Government thinks that people do not see how they are using their appointees and proxies at the local level such as the Turaga Ni Koro’s to execute their designs, they are sorely mistaken.”

“Similarly, the Rotuma Bill has already been rejected by the people of Rotuma and their traditionally appointed spokespeople. While we appreciate that a Parliamentary Standing Committee is still looking at the Bill, we will await their findings and recommendations when it comes to the Parliament and respond accordingly with what we have been advised by the Rotuman community”.

“The tinkering of age old customs and traditions of our indigenous and Rotuman communities, as well as entrenching conversational and contemporary i Taukei and Fiji Hindi languages in the 2013 Constitution to be compulsorily taught in all primary schools, is further confirmation of this Government’s scant regard for social and moral values as well as invaluable lessons contained in the formal languages of both communities”.

“Section 43 of the by-law that states that it is unlawful to enter a village without formal authorization of the Provincial Council for any other purpose than visitation, is clearly intended to limit access by political parties and is further confirmation of control of our people who should be free to make their own decisions without any State sponsored control.”

“This is symptomatic of a Government that has lost its way and is rudderless, only choosing to ride roughshod over all people and manipulate processes that they think will tilt the balance in their favour. The domino effect of the culmination of all their misplaced policies will be echoed to them loud and clear come elections in 2018.”

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP LEADER – We will revoke Village By-laws

 

 

ASHWIN RAJ MUST BE DISMISSED FROM HIS POSITIONS: NFP

MEDIA RELEASE: April 3, 2017

The National Federation Party has called for the immediate dismissal of Ashwin Raj in both his positions as Chair of the Media Industry and Development Authority (MIDA) and Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC), following his suggestions to stifle freedom of speech on national television.

Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad, said that the suggestions on Sunday night 2nd April) by Mr Raj on FBCTV Current Affairs Show For the Record, where he urged the State to pursue the regulation of social media are shocking and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

“The NFP strongly condemns these suggestions to the State by Mr Raj, which we know are all being said under the pretext of “responsibility.”

“It is chilling, unconstitutional and could be easily wielded as an instrument to again stifle the voices of the people of Fiji.”

“What we find further disturbing are his pointed attacks on political parties and then the further justification of these attacks, to bring in regulation over social media.”

“The NFP sees this as a blatant attempt to stifle the voices of political parties in the lead-up to elections next year.”

“Fiji already has in place a heavily regulated media industry, with draconian laws, and penalties.”

“There is no need to introduce further laws to stifle civil liberties. There is instead a great need to repeal these laws.”

Professor Prasad added that citizens had taken to Mr Raj himself, their complaints on communal antagonism against FBCTV for the program Wasea Basha.

“However Mr Raj merely brushed these off as not meeting the “threshold for inciting communal discord.”

“It seems he has conveniently changed his mind on what such a “threshold” constitutes when this has concerned the State and its representatives”

“We are also appalled with the false accusations and political commentary that have emerged from Mr Raj in defending the statement of Fiji’s Ambassador to Geneva, Nazhat Shameem at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council.”

“His statement was based on an inaccurate lengthy version of the Ambassador’s statement, which the Fiji Mission in Geneva continued to have on its website and furthermore made some serious political commentary and opinion of what he thinks is true.”

“He continued to drive that agenda on Sunday night on FBCTV.”

“As the Director of a constitutionally independent commission, Mr Raj had cast inaccurate, political aspersions on opposition political parties, without checking the basic facts, including the true record of the speech.”

“The fact that a public servant in the Director of the FHRADC, has come into the political scene, falsely accusing opposition political parties of his own opinionated conclusion, contradicts the behaviour expected of pubic servants which explicitly demand political neutrality and impartiality.”

“They contravene the constitutional values and principles expected of public servants who should display high standards of behavior, including professional ethics and integrity.”

“I call on the Chairperson and members of the FHRADC who are constitutionally responsible for the promotion, protection, observation, of human rights, to take a proactive interest in the work of the commission and its officers, particularly its Director.”

“Mr Raj should be terminated from his positions to allow other more worthy, neutral and independent Fijians to apply for the position. His utterances and accusations are damning where he has crossed the line as a public servant acting as a mouthpiece for a political agenda.”

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

NFP LEADER – Ashwin Raj must be sacked from his positions

 

Poll support

THE FIJI TIMES: Nasik Swami
Saturday, April 01, 2017

IT will be interesting to see how the approval ratings of political party leaders emerge as the country moves closer to the 2018 General Election, says an academic.

Economist Neelesh Gounder of the University of the South Pacific (USP) says political leaders have very little time remaining to build on the trust of the electorates and win their votes.

Mr Gounder said the Tebbutt-Times poll in February, which gave FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama an approval rating of 78 per cent as prime minister of Fiji ahead of Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa (44 per cent), National Federation Party (NFP) leader Professor Biman Prasad (36 per cent) and Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka (34 per cent), was a base for leaders to build on their support.

“The magnitude of approval for each of the three leaders appears to be related with the other poll question on preferred choice for prime minister. Although at varying levels, the poll results show all leaders enjoy stronger approval than disapproval in their leadership role,” he said.

 

Mr Gounder said while Mr Bainimarama had a strong lead in terms of approval ratings, the leaders of other parties also fared out strongly considering the nature of media coverage of party leaders in the public arena.

“Prof Prasad’s approval is higher among the iTaukei (42 per cent) than Fijians of Indian descent (33 per cent).

“This is particularly interesting as it shows his support spans across both major communities. It also shows that the NFP leader’s message is cutting across both communities in a positive way.”

Mr Gounder said Prof Prasad’s rating was significantly higher in the Western Division (41 per cent) than in Central Division (29 per cent).

“This could potentially reflect NFP’s continuous stand on issues related to the plight of sugarcane farmers.

“The other surprising aspect is the approval rating of SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Despite not being in Parliament, his net approval is 34 per cent. It will be interesting to see how the leaders’ net approval/satisfaction ratings emerge as Fiji moves closer to the elections.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=394970

 

 

NFP to PM: Charity begins at home

MEDIA RELEASE: March 31, 2017

 

It is unbelievable that the Prime Minister, while calling for a grand coalition of nations and the private sector to tackle Climate Change, cannot even co-operate with others in his own country.

The Prime Minister, while addressing Private Sector Climate Leaders in the United States this week (29th March), called for a “grand coalition” between people in other countries on climate change.

They say “charity begins at home.”

A coalition means you must be patient, listen to other viewpoints and be open to dialogue.  You must talk to each other, not at each other. And despite finger-pointing and acrimonious debates in Parliament, the national interest must always prevail over anything else.

The NFP has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to begin national dialogue on the sugar industry and education. But he rejected this describing our call as “politics”.

NFP has moved Parliamentary motions asking his Government to help people as diverse as dairy farmers and dialysis patients.  His Government votes them all down.

People bring petitions to Parliament. But his Government changes the Parliamentary rules so that they cannot be debated.

The Prime Minister’s biggest challenge as COP23 Chairman will be that the climate change-denying US government will not listen to him.

Perhaps that will remind the Prime Minister, while he trots around the globe, how his fellow citizens feel at home.

 

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP to PM- Charity begins at home

 

 

AN NFP GOVERNMENT WILL BUILD A NEW SUGAR MILL FOR RA CANE GROWERS

MEDIA RELEASE: March 31, 2017

A National Federation Party Government after next year’s general elections will build a new sugar mill in Penang for the cane growers of Rakiraki.

This will be a priority of an NFP Government because we believe social responsibility to the people by a Government is paramount above anything else. And the NFP deeply values this principle.

The permanent shutdown of the Penang Mill is not only a “ill-conceived and irrational” decision by the Board of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, but also a decision of the Fiji First Government as confirmed by the Prime Minister, while rejecting a Petition in Parliament last Thursday by Ra cane growers urging the re-opening of the Mill.

The Prime Minister’s comment that the Mill was “beyond repair” and that the “FSC Board is meeting next week on the 27th to discuss exactly these issues”, confirms the Fiji First Government’s deviousness on this issue right from the outset in 2016 following the closure of the Mill after Severe TC Winston last year.

This Government and FSC have clearly prioritized FSC’s financial viability over the survival and livelihood of cane growers, therefore treating growers as sacrificial lambs.

FSC’s claim that any repair or refurbishment of the Penang Mill will cost 40-50 million dollars is untrue. This monetary value comes only after FSC cannibalized the Mill by stripping it of its parts, shipping them to other Mills and even transporting locomotives to Labasa. Even then the cost is baseless.

The Board is misleading people by saying it was unsafe to work inside the Mill. If this was true, how did employees strip the interior of the Mill of parts after being directed to do so by the Management.

That the PM failed to answer whether an assessment was done on the future of the mill by Indian experts as announced by him (PM) in July last year, confirms beyond any doubt Government had decided long time ago to shut down the Mill without any consideration to growers and the local economy of Ra.

The absence of any response from the PM leads us to believe he misled growers by giving them false hope of an assessment.

We also ask whether the USD$70 million credit facility offered by the Indian Prime Minister during his visit to Fiji in November 2014 for co-generation project at Rarawai has been utilized?

If not, why wasn’t it used to refurbish the Penang Mill?

Cane growers of Rakiraki and indeed throughout the cane belts of the 8 cane growing districts cannot hope for any solution from this Government that will positively impact their lives.

An NFP Government after the general elections will immediately set in motion plans and policies to build a new Mill. This is our commitment to the growers and people of Rakiraki.

 

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP LEADER-NEW SUGAR MILL FOR RA BY A NFP GOVERNMENT-1

 

RESPONSE TO STATEMENT BY SODELPA LEADER AIRED BY FBC NEWS

MEDIA RELEASE TO FBC NEWS

 

The National Federation Party once again, makes it absolutely clear that it wasn’t, isn’t and will not be in coalition with any other political party for next year’s general elections. This decision was first made by the Working Committee of the NFP on 26th June 2016, formally adopted by the Annual General Meeting of the Party on 3rd
September 2016, and ratified by the NFP Working Committee on 19th November 2016.

It simply means that this decision is irrevocable. We wish to clear the air yet again following the confusion a
statement made by SODELA Leader broadcast by FBC News created amongst our members and supporters.

Professor Biman Prasad
Leader

March 28, 2017

 

RESPONSE TO FBC NEWS-1

RA Cane Farmers Were Kept in Dark for a Year

Mill no more

Felix Chaudhary
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

THE Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) board has announced the permanent closure of the Penang sugar mill in Rakiraki.

Board chairman Vishnu Mohan said the decision to close the mill for good was one not made easily, but it was something that had to be done.

“The reasons are many, but fundamentally if we were to refurbish the mill, it would cost us between $40 million and $50m and honestly I don’t think we can afford it at this point in time,” he said.

“We have to get our priorities right and in any business, we need to be very careful in how we spend our money.

“It is a 136-year-old mill and we have not spent any money in the upkeep in the last 20 years.”

Mr Mohan assured the Rakiraki and Tavua farming community that they would not be affected by the closure as plans were in place to formalise transportation from the Penang mill area to Rarawai in Ba.

He also said the Rarawai sugar mill would be maintained to handle the increased load.

“We can assure that it is not going to impact production.

“We are looking at 2.1 million tonnes of cane and more than 200,000 tonnes of sugar. We have done some work on it and we feel we can handle the increase.”

FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark said Rarawai had handled the situation well last year and the miller had strategies to cope with the additional cane this season.

“The options that we’ve got is running more efficiently, crushing through Sundays, which we haven’t been doing and extending the season slightly to take in the extra cane. I think we’ve got enough options to handle all the cane.”

Mr Clark said FSC would look at redeploying as many of the 110 employees from Penang to other mills.

“Nobody will be prejudiced by this decision in terms of their own personal circumstances and that refers to employees or our farmers for that matter.

“We are very mindful of the position of employees.

“A lot of employees were redeployed within the organisation since its closure over the last two years and we will take this as an opportunity to find them alternate employment around the group. We’ll find positions for those that we can and take care of those that we can’t.”

Mr Clark said FSC would initially secure the mill yard and then begin dismantling it over a period of time.

Growers’ representative organisations have labelled the decision as a slap in the face of Tavua and Rakiraki farmers and the Rakiraki business community.

“Growers and the business community in Ra had pinned their hopes on the mill reopening and now all their dreams have been shattered,” said National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

“Everyone will be affected by this decision, farmers will slowly lose interest in farming and the loss of income from employees of the mill will affect the Rakiraki economy. Ra has potential for cane production growth as opposed to the Sigatoka-Nadi corridor where a lot of farms have given way to tourism and industrial developments.”

Fiji Cane Growers Association president Attar Singh said it was a sad day for the industry.

“This is a decision that is not going to be accepted by the farmers,” he said.

“Last season, farmers and stakeholders put up with the transfer of cane as a temporary inconvenience but this decision changes everything.

“Carting the Penang mill area cane to Rarawai places a huge burden on the Ba mill and this could mean an extension to the crushing season. And farmers will be faced with increasing labour costs because of this.

“The FSC needs to seriously look at the costs to growers and there needs to be an indepth study in terms of transportation and the expected losses to farmers.”

Rakiraki Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Shiu Raj said the decision would impact significantly on the business community.

“We will lose between 60 and 70 per cent of our business, it’s a very sad day for Rakiraki,” he said. “Why didn’t they explore other options like giving this mill up for lease to the private sector instead of closing it down completely?

“I produce 2000 tonnes of cane and was looking at extending my farm but this decision has made me lose interest in investing because of the inconvenience and additional cost of transporting cane from Rakiraki to Rarawai.”

Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO Sundresh Chetty said nothing had been communicated to him from FSC when contacted yesterday.

“We are the legitimate representative of the farmers and have not been officially informed as yet,” he said.

Government Dictating Sugar Industry since 2006 coup

‘No funds’

Kalesi Mele: Fiji Times
Sunday, March 26, 2017

THE Fiji Cane Growers Association (FCGA) says they had no funds to work with for several years since the removal of democratically elected members from the Sugar Cane Growers Council in 2008.

In tabling their 2016 financial reports, FCGA treasurer Kamlesh Kumar said last year the association had no funds and therefore were unable to conduct any activities.

FCGA re-elected president Attar Singh said with the removal of the council, the council levy system which was directed to their respective organisations was also removed.

The deductions of the levy used to be facilitated by the Fiji Sugar Corporation and directed to the council and respective associations.

Mr Singh said if both the State and FSC were genuine in seeking to assist farmers, they would reinstate the council levy system.

“We are very active and we used to contest elections and people used to sit in the growers council.

“This Government came in and decided to remove the check-off facilities, the levies that farmers used to collect from farmers.

“They have removed that levy facility to try and kill the voice of farmers.

“FSC no longer deducts that money and you would have heard that trade unions had a big fight where government was stopping the check-off.

“Now after a fight with the International Labour Organization, that check-off is restored. So everybody’s check-off is restored. Trade unions are restored but the check-off facility for canefarmers is yet to be restored.

“If FSC wants co-operation of farmers and if it wants to genuinely assist farmers then it has a duty to assist the farmers’ organisation in terms of collecting the membership fees so they can run effective organisations and we are calling on them to facilitate this.”

 

Penang mill ‘no more’

Prem Singh: The Fiji Times – page 13: Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the official end of the indenture system. For Fiji, this is symbolic as more than 60,000 Indian indentured labourers were brought to our shores between May 14, 1879
and November 11, 1916 to work on the cane fields by the British Colonial Government.  A historical reminder of our indenture period is the Penang sugar mill in Rakiraki. Built in 1878, statistics reveal it was the smallest, oldest but for
the better part of its 137 years of continuous operation, it was the most  efficient mill in terms of extracting the maximum sugar from its cane crop until the Fiji Sugar Corporation started neglecting it and from mid-1990s,
made continuous rumbling to shut it down, but failed. Until Severe TC Winston destroyed it and Government and FSC decided not to repair it.
In Parliament on Thursday, the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Industry Voreqe Bainimarama, effectively crushed the last flickering hopes of canegrowers of Rakiraki by declaring the mill was a “write-off” and stating that I was politicising the issue.  The PM also said the issues raised by growers were being addressed through the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry and Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Amendment) Bills (Bills 19 & 20), which have been overwhelmingly and emphatically rejected by all growers.  The growers were seeking Parliament’s intervention in agreeing to refer their petition to the parliamentary standing committee on economic affairs so that objective solutions could be found to their grievances.  However, based on the PM’s response, Government defeated the motion
by 26 votes to 16.  This resulted in the petition not getting 40 per cent approval of Parliament for the petition to be referred to the standing committee for scrutiny.  About 303 canegrowers from the total number of growers in four sectors in  Penang mill area signed the petition for the Penang mill to be repaired and reopened.  Thirteen months after STC Winston wreaked havoc, the Penang mill, the  lifeblood of the economy of Rakiraki, is now a relic, cannibalised by its owners — the Fiji Sugar Corporation.
The Prime Minister himself visited Ra and met the growers over the past 13 months.  But Penang, established in 1878, continues to remain in a state of disrepair, and a daily reminder of the tragedy being faced by growers of Ra
and the sugar industry.  As a result the economy of Rakiraki has taken a battering, even 13 months after Severe TC Winston’s destructive winds passed over Ra, exacerbated by seven floods since December 2016, with growers being kicked from pillar to post.  After STC Winston, Government and FSC decided not to repair and reopen the mill with grand plans announced for a syrup mill.  What the PM said in July 2016  As the growers stated in their petition, last year the Prime Minister also held consultations with growers, two weeks following the 2016-17 Budget debate after we pointed out that FSC was stripping the mill, taking parts away to other mills and had even shipped locomotives to Labasa.
On July 23, 2016, the Prime Minister stated at Penang Sangam School that apart from allocating $2 million for the transportation of cane to the Rarawai mill in Ba, Government was assessing the future of the mill.  The Prime Minister said, “We are currently assessing whether Penang mill should be rebuilt as a syrup mill or the full sugar mill that it was before the  cyclone. Many sugar-producing countries have smaller mills that produce only syrup. It reduces the time it takes for crushing and the syrup is taken to a bigger mill where it is crystalised into sugar.
“We have been given some assistance by the Indian Government to assess the best course of action and we will be making a decision on Penang in the next two months.  “But whichever way we go, a full mill or a syrup mill, it will not affect your  ability to supply cane. And the work will commence immediately when the assessment is completed.”
No answer  Until now, there has been no word from Government on what is the future of the mill. The growers wanted to know whether any assessment was done. If yes, what was the outcome? If no, why not? And what happened to the assistance provided by the Indian Government?  Was it financial assistance or technical expertise? And if it hasn’t been used for Penang, then where has it been channelled?  I believe the PM failed to answer this in Parliament. I believe he, for all intents and purposes, sidestepped the issue. In the absence of any clarification, it is safe to assume that no assessment was done. I believe this only confirms that both Government and FSC decided as
early as last year that Penang mill was now history.
Growers’ losses
Last year growers suffered losses because of cartage of their harvested sugarcane to Rarawai mill in Ba. Last week, the new CEO of FSC,Graham Clarke, revealed that 35 per cent of crop was lost during transfer from the Penang mill yard to Rarawai.  The Fiji Times reported Mr Clarke on Thursday, March 16, saying handling of cane firstly at Penang — where it as stockpiled — and rehandling of cane at Rarawai resulted in the loss in tonnage.  A total of 92,000 tonnes of cane were harvested in the Penang mill area last year. If 35 per cent was lost in transfer then this was equivalent to 32,200 tonnes.  In monetary terms with three cane payments so far totalling $61.84, this
amounts to a loss of about $2m.  This is directly a result of the non-operation of the Penang mill. It is a direct loss suffered not only by canegrowers but the economy of Rakiraki as a whole.  A bleak future  The growers clearly say in the petition that if the mill is not operational this year, then many growers will exit the industry from next year.
We cannot afford this and 2016 will be yet another season of poor cane price. Growers were expecting more than $13 per tonne as the third cane payment but their expectations have been dashed with the announcement and payment of $9.28 per tonne.  About $61.84 has been paid so far and growers will be highly fortunate if they receive $10-$12 more in the fourth and final payments this year for 2016. The price of a tonne of cane for last year will definitely not exceed $73.
And tragically, deductions from the proceeds of the third cane payment for fertiliser and other expenses have left many growers, particularly those producing an average of 150 tonnes of cane with no income at all.  How are they expected to survive until the next payment towards the end of May, without getting into further debt because they will have to borrow to sustain their livelihood?  The plight of growers, particularly in Ra has been worsened by the fact that no special payment was advanced this year.  Last month, the PM told Parliament no request was made to him but FSC and the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sugar are reported by both daily newspapers as telling growers in Ra that FSC did not have any money to advance a special payment because the Corporation had made
a huge loss.  I know that a request was made on January 6 for a special payment. I believe this fact is well known to growers in Ra.  The depletion of income of growers means a loss to the economy as a whole because every single cent paid and earned from the industry circulates in our local economy in the cane belts.  The closure of the mill and the fact that it will remain closed, the effects of STC Winston and flooding has broken their backs.  I believe they are disenchanted and the last thing they needed is for us legislators to ignore their plight. We have seen that transfer of their crop to Rarawai has resulted in major losses. Mill repair possible  I believe the Penang Mill, before it was cannibalised and stripped by the FSC, would have been definitely repaired at a far cheaper cost than what
was spent to transport cane and the value of losses incurred in doing so, which was at least $4m.  In addition growers who used their lorries were also paid cartage but at a rate $3 less than what operators hired by FSC received.
And this rate was only implemented after the intervention of the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sugar as earlier growers were offered a rate more than $12 less than what FSC hired operators were getting.  Furthermore, payments were made for machinery hired at a cost of $120 per hour to load cane into trucks at the Penang mill.
Therefore, I believe, we are altogether looking at $5m spent and lost last year, which would have been more than sufficient to fix the mill.  I believe the closure of the Penang mill was either simply a case of bad economics or a deliberate decision by Government and the FSC.  The final nail  It was still not too late to salvage the situation. On behalf of growers, I pleaded with Government to view the plight of growers from at least a humanitarian point of view.  I pleaded that the petition be referred to the relevant standing committee, which could then formulate outcomes from the work of the committee for the betterment of growers and Ra as a whole.  I urged Parliament to strive towards positively impacting growers’ lives and the local economy of Ra.  But I believe the PM demolished the hopes of growers by ensuring that the Penang mill will remain a relic and not salvaged just like the wreckage of
Syria rotting away on Nasilai reef for the past 133 years.  Penang mill is no more, thanks to Government.
* Prem Singh is an NFP member of Parliament. Views expressed are his
and not of this newspaper.

MOTION ON DAIRY INDUSTRY

11AM -FRIDAY MARCH 24 2017 – PARLIAMENT OF FIJI

BY NFP LEADER

HON PROFESSOR BIMAN PRASAD

Attached is a Motion  by the NFP Leader Hon Professor Biman Prasad for Parliamentary today(Friday) to agree on a rehabilitation package to ensure the vibrancy and vitality of the Dairy Industry. 

 
Professor Prasad pointed out that Dairy Farmers were requesting for higher prices of raw milk. At the same time Fiji Dairy Ltd, the suppliers of  processed milk are enjoying 32% duty concession-er zero duty on imported milk products, therefore have no incentive to help and grow the local dairy industry. 
 
The Government opposed the Motion through contribution to the Debate by Minister for Economy and Minister for Agriculture. 
 
The Motion was defeated 27 (NO) to 15 (YES) with Government voting against it. 

 

Madam Speaker

I move –

 

“That this Parliament agrees that in light of the struggling dairy industry and worsening plight of dairy farmers, an extensive rehabilitation package be implemented for the vibrancy and vitality of the Dairy Industry and dairy farmers”.

Madam Speaker, the plight of the dairy industry and dairy farmers is an example of another Government reform or policy that has failed to meet its objective.

The reality of our dairy industry is excruciatingly painful. An average of Eighty million litres of milk  is consumed each year. Our dairy industry is producing less than  ten million litres of milk annually. This means that 70 million litres of milk either liquid or in powdered form is imported. This means we are producing only twelve and a half percent of Fiji’s total milk consumption while eighty seven and a half percent is imported.

Madam Speaker, what does this mean for our dairy industry, dairy farmers and the monopolistic Fiji Dairy Limited? Does it mean that it is making a loss or is technical insolvent? Are our dairy farmers struggling to survive?

The latter, that is dairy farmers, are genuinely struggling to earn a decent livelihood. But  Fiji Dairy Limited continues to  be a healthy profitable entity – thanks to the 32%  duty concession  or zero duty it enjoys for milk imports. On the other hand Madam Speaker, An import duty of 32% is placed on all importers. But this particular company gets a zero duty to import cream/milk and sell them to consumers at a price which many are not able to afford, makes the argument by government to protect the local dairy industry pretty hollow.

This favored company, which has got zero duty has no incentive to promote the local industry when it can continue to rake in millions of dollars by simply importing.  This too is at the expense of the ordinary consumers who are paying high prices for milk and milk products. It is a matter of wonderment that government while giving millions of dollars to this private company, is ensuring that the same company maximizes its profits when it is the sole provider of milk to our class one students. And while this company makes exorbitant profit each year, the dairy farmers are suffering with low milk price and rising cost of feed for cows. Farmers are paid price per litre of milk in three grades – premium, first and second. The highest price is 94 cents per litre, which is less than the cost of producing one litre of milk. The average price paid to farmers is 80 cents per litre. And four cents per litre  is  the surcharge for transportation of milk to chilling centres.

Madam Speaker, the rot of the industry started with the promulgation of what was then known as the Dairy Restructure Decree 2010, now known as an Act like other Decrees and promulgations without bringing them to Parliament for ratification. We all know that a consultant, who happened to be a partner of an Accounting Firm was hired to  carry out the  restructure of what was  then known as Rewa Dairy or Fiji Co-operative Dairy Company Limited.

Madam Speaker, the Decree’s main intention was to transfer from FCDCL to Fiji Dairy Limited, all interests for separating milk supply from milk processing. And like other Decrees Madam Speaker, this Decree cannot be challenged in a Court of Law. A draconian and regressive piece of legislation like this is now known as an Act, portraying to the world that we as parliamentarians passed this legislation, which has become a noose around the necks of dairy farmers in terms of them being milked dry by this company.

Madam Speaker in July 2016, FCDCL CEO revealed a huge decline in milk production – in an interview with the Fiji Times published on 23rd July 2016. He revealed that in the first quarter of 2015, dairy farmers were supplying 26,000 litres of milk daily to the factory compared to 19,000 litres in 2016. The reduction by 7,000 litres means in 2016 FCDCL farmers would have supplied only a little over 6.9 million litres of milk. This is a significant reduction of almost 27%. But Fiji Dairy Limited is not complaining because it enjoys zero duty on milk imports. And we have fair idea of why they are silent while the dairy industry and plight of farmers is worsening by the day.

Because Madam Speaker, the company will enjoy the zero duty on imports for 10 years. Other importers are subjected to a 32% duty on all milk products except ghee which I  am told is 15%. Perhaps the Minister for Economy and the Minister for Agriculture can either confirm or deny this – I am told that apart from the white packet Rewa Life, butter, yoghurt and a few flavoured milk brands, others are imported by Fiji Dairy Limited. The blue packet Rewa Life, Devondale and Dawn brands are all imported. So there is no incentive for Fiji Dairy to develop the local industry when it can maximize its profits through imports that are zero-rated.

Madam Speaker, FCDCL, during its Annual General Meeting last year proposed that it have its own processing facility because Milk Supply Agreement with Fiji Dairy Limited was questionable. The AGM also heard that the price of a litre of raw milk should be $1.25 from an average of 82 cents.

Madam Speaker, the plight of sugar cane turned dairy farmers in Vatukoula was highlighted recently by The Fiji Times in a series of reports. Despite the series of articles, no response has been forthcoming from the Dairy Company and the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Dairy farmers struggle to survive” was an article on Saturday 4th March. Madam Speaker  this picture tells us the painful reality of the plight of dairy farmers. A Vatukoula farmer Hirdesh Nand shows cans of milk rejected by the company, causing them more losses in addition to the low  price paid for raw milk.

Mr Prasad said the company doesn’t even call them the same day to tell the milk has been rejected but return the cans  full of milk the next day. He said if the company tells him what is wrong  with how he manages his dairy cows or with production of the milk, he can take remedial action but this is not the case.

Madam Speaker, another article in The Fiji Times on 6th March “Dairy cow shortage hits farmers, firm”, quotes FCDCL CEO as saying the number of cows has reduced significantly since 2015. He says the outbreak of Bovine Tuberculosis or Bovine TB in 2015 and 2016  shrunk the stock by 22 to 23 percent. He said it was difficult to import farm animals from neighbouring countries because of disease issues. There is no response in this article or in its aftermath from the Agriculture Ministry to say what is it doing to alleviate this problem.

Madam Speaker on 15th March The Fiji Times  reported that the Agriculture Ministry remained tightlipped on how it was going to help the affected Vatukoula Dairy farmers who had called for increase to price of raw milk, solutions to transportation issues and rejection of fresh milk by the buyers.

FCDCL CEO is also quoted here as saying that the price of  a litre of raw milk  had decreased from $1 in 2012 to 80 cents. This is following the restructure of the company when Fiji Dairy became the supplier.  This is confirmed by one of the directors of FCDCL.

The price before was $1 VEP or VAT Exclusive while the  lower price of 80 cents is VAT inclusive. There we ask why a corporate giant is allowed to profiteer at the expense of farmers and taxpayers?

Madam Speaker, we fear the dairy industry and the plight of farmers will be the same as that of our cane growers if Government does not review its policies and adopts and implements an  extensive rehabilitation package to prevent the industry from collapse.

We urge the government to immediately review this policy. And the first thing it should do is to bring to Parliament and review the Dairy Industry Restructure Decree of 2010. For it to be considered an Act, it must be fully scrutinised by Parliament to see  how and why this particularly company has been given concessions and zero duty to maximize profits at the expense of dairy farmers, the taxpayers and consumers of Fiji. Instead of reviving the dairy industry, these measures have and are leading it  on a path to destruction.

Madam Speaker, if Government is serious about helping dairy farmers and the the dairy industry, we would suggest that it should be through direct support to the farmers in improving their pastures, breeding, infrastructure and close extension and advisory support to the farmers.  The supplementary feed for dairy cows should also be subsidized.

And most importantly the price of  raw milk should be increased to $1.25 per litre and the grading system scrapped.

Madam Speaker, Protecting one company to promote local dairy industry by assisting their imports, has been a colossal failure as I pointed out in this Parliament in December 2014. Import substitution policy is an age-old policy which has failed elsewhere, it has previously failed in Fiji and there is no doubt that it will fail in this case. The losers will be ordinary consumers and dairy farmers in this country.

I Commend the Motion

NFP Leader Dairy Industry Motion