Cane farmers should be compensated by FSC for losses incurred as a result of mill breakdowns and stoppages, as an obligation under the Sugar Industry Master Award, says the National Farmers Union.
Why should farmers have to suffer for the Corporation’s lack of preparedness and inefficiency?” NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry asked.
Mr Chaudhry was responding to excuses for the collapse of the Lautoka and Labasa mills given by FSC’s expatriate General Manager Operations, Annamale Naicker who claimed that FSC lacked skilled workers and that the mills were facing teething problems with new equipment.
“The NFU does not buy these excuses which have been used by FSC for many years to cover up its inefficiencies. It has had more than ample time to build up its skilled manpower. In any case, the Lautoka and Penang Mills had a very successful crushing season last year so the ‘skilled manpower shortage’ excuse is without substance,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“FSC is required under the Sugar Industry Master Award to maintain its mills in good repair. Despite this very specific provision, malfunctioning of the mills has become a chronic problem year in year out.
NFU had warned at the beginning of the 2009 crushing season that farmers and the industry were likely to incur losses running into millions of dollars this season because of FSC’s negligence in maintaining its mills in good order.
Crushing at the Rarawai Mill has now been deferred for another two weeks while the Labasa, Lautoka and Penang mills have been plagued by breakdowns ever since they began crushing.
The NFU is reliably informed that the main reason for the failure of the mills this year is interference in the management of FSC by the four (4) expatriates hired by FSC on the instructions of the Sugar Ministry. These consultants have upstaged the local management causing serious disruptions to the operations at all three mills.
“With the EU price for Fiji sugar facing a 36% cut from October this year, it is incumbent on the FSC to crush at optimum levels to be able to make as much sugar as possible to be shipped before October.
However, it is now clear that the sugar manufactured before October is likely to be much less than earlier expected. From the way things are going, cane farmers will face major losses due to FSC’s negligence for which they should rightfully be compensated,” Mr Chaudhry said.