FCGA says Sugar Cane Industry Bill criminalises cane production

Farmers wary of penalties

Felix Chaudhary. The Fiji Times. Thursday, May 19, 2016

THE Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill will demolish all freedoms, independence, fair play and justice for canegrowers if it is passed in Parliament, says the Fiji Cane Growers Association.

President Attar Singh said every aspect of their livelihood would be controlled by the Fiji Sugar Corporation and Government through the Minister for Sugar if the Bill was passed and imposed.

While making submissions to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs on the reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill in Ba last week, Mr Singh said the Bill would make life as a cane farmer worse than what it was for indentured labourers under the Colonial Sugar Refinery.

“The Bill criminalises cane production. Growers are now threatened with fines as fixed penalties of up to $500 for the schedule of offences growers commit.

“If they refuse to pay the fixed penalties, they can be fined up to $5000 or imprisoned for 12 months, or both.

“A grower commits an offence if he or she delays harvesting or refuses to plant cane unless he or she gives a seven-day notice to the permanent secretary for Sugar.

“For example, if due to continuous milling inefficiencies, a grower decides to stop harvesting, it is an offence.

“Under the Bill, the grower must allow the permanent secretary 14 days to rule on the dispute. This means that growers are at the mercy of Government, which has direct control of their livelihood.

“Yet there are no penalties for FSC for any of its failures or negligence.”

Standing committee chairperson Lorna Eden said the views put forward by growers and representative organisations had been recorded and would be included in their report to Parliament.

Association rallies behind efforts to support canegrowers

Felix Chaudhary. The Fiji Times. Thursday, May 19, 2016

GOVERNMENT should help sugarcane growers in the wake of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston instead of vigorously pushing for the quick implementation of the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill.

This was the view expressed by Fiji Cane Growers Association president Attar Singh.

In a submission to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs delivered last week in Ba, Mr Singh said canefarmers were expecting the roll out of a cane rehabilitation program but instead, Government was pushing through a Bill that was an assault on the freedoms of growers.

“The Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry will kill the sugar industry,” Mr Singh said.

He added interference by the Government under the guise of reforms had not made any positive development since the military takeover in 2006.

This, Mr Singh said, would continue if the reform Bill was passed and implemented.

“After the coup in December 2006, the military government started interfering with the industry.

“As a result, cane production declined by almost 50 per cent and sugar production has declined by almost 100,000 tonnes.

“At a time when growers are trying to recover from the effects of Tropical Cyclone Winston, Government should be directing all efforts towards helping them.

“Instead, it is sending them back into the Girmit era 100 years after the arrival of the last indentured labourers in 1916.

“The bottom line is canegrowers are being stripped of all their rights just to save FSC.

“The Fiji First Government has confirmed through this Bill that growers are sacrificial lambs,” Mr Singh said.

Standing committee chairperson Lorna Eden informed the association that the reason Government constructed the Bill was to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.