Cane farmers are saying no to government’s proposal to review the
Sugar Master Award to allow for the implementation of a quality
cane payment system.
A team from the Sugar Cane Growers Council, acting on instructions from the Sugar Ministry, has started moving around the cane belt seeking farmers’ views on changes the government and FSC want to make unilaterally to the Master Award.
Growers are rejecting the proposed changes. They oppose the introduction of a quality cane payment system as proposed by FSC.
Instead, they have made it clear to the authorities that they want the reinstatement of the elected Growers Council, unlawfully dismissed in November 2009, with fresh elections held to elect a new Council.
NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry said the proposal for a quality cane payment system was hatched by FSC and it is completely in their favour:
“Do they have a “quality” milling system? How can farmers be assured fair payment under a system where the mills are performing inefficiently and a lot of good cane is lost in the process? This was the case with the Rarawai Mill last year and the Lautoka and Labasa Mills the previous year. ”
Mr Chaudhry also made it very clear that any implementation of a Quality Cane Payment system, if agreed with the growers, must be administered by an independent authority, and not FSC which has a direct interest in the matter.
“There must be provision in it for growers to be compensated for milling inefficiencies,” he added.
Mr Chaudhry questioned the legality of the process under which the Sugar Ministry is proposing to review the current Master Award. Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Pramesh Chand, announced recently that consultants will be hired to carry out the review.
The NFU general secretary has written to the Minister for Sugar, Voreqe Bainimarama and the Sugar Industry Tribunal warning that such a process would be contrary to the provisions of the Sugar Industry Act.
“We wish to state quite emphatically that the process and procedure for making, reviewing or amending the Master Award is specifically provided for in Part VI of the Act and it should be followed.