The sugar industry strategic plan announced by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the ACP meeting is sheer propaganda as its targets are certainly not achievable in the announced five year timeframe of
It is just a paper plan designed to impress ACP Sugar Ministers.
Fiji has been unable to meet its annual export sugar quota to the EU since 2009. The industry began its downward spiral in 2008 and it has continued to slide ever since. Cane production has fallen from 3.3m tonnes in 2006 to
1.6m in 2012, sugar make dropped from 330,000 tonnes to 160,000 tonnes. If the status quo prevails, it will be disappear in the next three to four years.
To produce ethanol, generate electricity and refine raw sugar is impossible unless cane production increases to at least 4 million tonnes. This remains unachievable with our recent record of rapidly declining cane production, as statistics show.
The authoritarian style of management deployed by the powers that be, has demoralized growers leaving them completely marginalized in an industry in which they have a 75% stake. Key institutions that gave growers a voice in the running of the industry and provided accountability on the part of the miller, were arbitrarily dismantled in 2010. The Growers Council, an elected growers’ body formed to advance their interests and welfare, is now under the control of the miller and the Sugar Ministry.
Some 3000 cane growers have exited in the past three years. Many have switched to cash crops and reduced their cane acreage. High costs of cultivation, harvesting and transportation have made cane farming unviable unless tangible assistance is provided to growers.
In this respect, it should be noted that the Fiji industry lost $400 million in aid money from the EU under its Alternative Measures Programme. This grant was intended for farm level reforms but was withheld because of the political situation here and Mr Bainimarama’s failure to hold elections in 2009 as promised, in an agreement with the EU in April 2007.
Delegates at the 13th ACP Sugar Ministers Conference need to meet with the genuine representatives of the growers and the people here to get to know the truth about Fiji.