National Farmers Union rejects outright the sugar industry restructure Bill which aims to repeal the existing Sugar Industry Act without any consultation with the NFU as the most representative cane farmers’ organisation.
The Union warns that farmers will hold back the planting of new cane for the 2004 season if government insists on imposing a unilateral restructure on them.
For the past two years NFU has consistently voiced its total opposition to the proposed industry restructure as an FSC-drawn up rescue package which aims at bailing out the ailing corporation at the expense of cane farmers.
NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry said the Bill had also not been discussed by the Parliamentary Sugar Select Committee.
“This is in blatant breach and defiance of parliamentary procedures. Government is being dictatorial and I am warning government now that growers will have nothing to do with such a restructure,” he said.
Mr. Chaudhry said he will be meeting next week with a European Union mission which arrives to carry out a study of the sugar industry and later with the team from India, and he will make it clear to both of them that farmers will not support any restructure plan that fails to consult them as major stakeholders.
“My advice to government is to enter into negotiations with the NFU as the true representative of cane farmers. Otherwise it has not a hope in hell of pushing the restructure through.
“Cane farmers in Fiji are not going to be pushed back to the days of the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company) or the Girmit which is what will happen if government scraps the existing sugar Master Award and replaces it with individual contracts,” he said.
“I am warning government now not to fool around with cane farmers. Otherwise this country can say good-bye to the sugar industry,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
Government is expected to table a Bill in parliament in April next year to restructure the sugar industry which will include the scrapping of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, the Sugar Commission of Fiji and the Sugar Industry Tribunal.
It will also scrap the sugar master award and replace it with individual contracts with caner growers.
The proposals have not been discussed with industry stakeholders.