The National Federation Party says sheer incompetence and dictatorial attitude of Fiji Sugar Corporation executives as well as their on-going misleading campaign on the effectiveness of the sugar mills has become intolerable.
Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says as a result cane growers, cane cutters and lory operators are suffering because of breakdowns at the Lautoka mill and the slow throughput or crush rate at Rarawai Mill.
Professor Prasad said it was deceitful of the FSC to announce early this week that Lautoka mill was on a scheduled stop when the reality was that it had broken down.
“We have been told by growers and lorry operators that they were not compensated. FSC had announced that it would pay $5 per tonne of harvested cane if the any of its mills broke down. But we have been told that previously growers received only $3 while lorry operators got $2. But even this has not happened this time”.
“It seems FSC is trying to wriggle its way out of this commitment by claiming the Lautoka mill breakdown was a scheduled stop. Under the current management, FSC is behaving like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR)”.
“We are told by growers that FSC restarts its mills just before the 6 hours timeline that kicks in the compensation plan and then shuts it down to escape the payment to growers. This is again deceitful. We ask FSC to clarify with evidence whether or not this is true”.
“This week harvested cane from Lautoka and Nadi were being taken to Rarawai. And to make matters worse the extremely slow crush rate or mill throughput at Rarawai worsened the problem, resulting in harvesting quotas being withdrawn in the Western Division cane districts especially Rakiraki where growers are already suffering from the forced closure of the Penang mill by this Government”.
“This is happening because FSC refused to heed our call for an audit of its mills to determine their state of preparedness. Instead FSC stated more than two months ago that it had invested $16 million in mill maintenance and upgrade at Lautoka mill alone. It is now becoming clear that this money was wasted because there hasn’t been an audit to determine on what it was spent”.
“The problem with the sugar industry is that it is now totally controlled by Government with growers having no say whatsoever in how the industry is being run”.
“This is because of total lack of democratization of the Sugar Cane Growers Council that was dissolved in 2009 and appointments to key positions in the industry including Boards of personnel who have little knowledge of the industry”.
“This is exacerbated by the fact that unlike previous parliaments before the 2006 coup, this Government refused to allow a bipartisan parliamentary select committee on sugar, which in situations like this, could have met and make decisive decisions that would have compelled FSC to abide by them”.
And we have a Minister for Sugar, who happens to be the Prime Minister, missing from the country quite frequently and preaching unity and Talanoa to world leaders when he refuses to practice what he preaches in Fiji”.
“Throughout this season, he has not said anything about why the mills are not performing and its adverse impact on the welfare and livelihood of the most stakeholders of the industry”.
“As a result the growers who are the largest and most important stakeholders in the industry are suffering along with cane cutters, lorry drivers, and all their families. This is the legacy of this Government that claims all Fijian families matter”.
Professor Biman Prasad