Bainimarama must take blame for the current critical state of the sugar industry

  • 6th June 2013
  • 2013
  • // Display comment count + link

Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama persists in blaming everyone else but the incompetence of his own regime for the drastic decline of the sugar industry since he took over as Sugar Minister.

In his address to the International Sugar Organisation meeting in Nadi, he chooses to put the blame on past administrations and former politicians, against all industry indicators to the contrary.

A more honest assessment of the problems facing the sugar industry was provided by ISO executive director Dr. Peter Baron who put ongoing political instability in Fiji since the 1987 military coup and the racial and
political tensions they caused, as the main reasons behind the decline of the Fiji sugar industry.

The fact is that the past four years of the regime has seen the worst performance of the sugar industry on record. Furthermore, this was during a time when politics and union activities were practically banned in Fiji and regime was making arbitrary decisions on policy matters.

The following industry performance figures run against those of 2006 clearly show the drastic fall in cane and sugar production, and mill performance under Bainimarama’s watch:

Year Cane Crushed
(Tones)
Sugar Production
(Tones)
TCTS
2006 3.2 million 310,000 10.4
2009 2.2 million 168,000 13
2010 1.8million 132,000 14
2011 2.1 million 165,000 13
2012 1.6 million 150,000 10

As the figures show, between 2006 and 2012 both cane and sugar production have more than halved. Can Mr Bainimarama rightly blame politicians and past governments for this sorry state of the industry?

Fiji’s sugar industry under his regime, cannot meet its commitments to the European Union nor can FSC service its $80 million mill upgrade loan from the Exim Bank of India despite being bailed out to the tune of $120 million by the tax payers to pay off its past debts.

The Sugar Minister must also explain why FSC’s 2012 annual report has still not been published. It was due in October last year.

Bainimarama’s refusal to hold elections in 2009 as promised has deprived the industry and the farmers of some $400 million in assistance under the EU’s Alternative Measures Programme, not to mention the suspension of aid worth tens of millions under its Economic Development Fund.

Bainimarama should be held responsible for depriving Fiji of at least $2 billion in development assistance from our traditional development partners while indebting the nation with an additional debt burden of a like amount in the past two years.
His plea now to the EU for a 5-year extension to the guaranteed sugar price agreement is absurd coming from someone who has caused immense damage to Fiji’s economy and its international reputation.