Canefarmers attending the annual general meeting of the National Farmers Union (NFU) this Saturday (May 31) in Lautoka, will decide on this season’s crop harvest.
Farmers are extremely agitated by the arbitrary manner in which decisions on their future are being taken by the FSC, the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC) and the government, said NFU General Secretary, Mahendra Chaudhry.
The proposed restructure plan for the sugar industry prepared by FSC and backed by the Chief Executive of the SCGC, is not acceptable to the farmers. Nor do they want the introduction of cane quality payment system until the mills achieve internationally acceptable efficiency standards.
Farmers are totally opposed to the hike in the sugar export tax from 3% – 10% imposed by the government from this year. The threefold increase in this tax is totally unjustified and it is costing them between $5 – $6 per tonne of cane. That is why the cane payment this month is as low as $6.72 per tonne. Had the tax remained at 3% the payment would have been around $10 per tonne,” said Mr Chaudhry.
Farmers have resolved to present a united front on all three issues as well as on a reduction in their basic farm allotment without adequate notice and negotiations.
Mr Chaudhry said the meeting would also take a critical look at the SCGC’s operations, particularly the ‘double’ role played by its Chief Executive, Jagannath Sami and the ineffectiveness of the Council in safeguarding the farmers interest.
NFU is also closely monitoring the scheduled maintenance work of the mills and the rolling stock. The present state of the mills, rail trucks and tramlines is unsatisfactory. Much work needs to be done if the crush is to begin on June 18 as scheduled. NFU will not advise farmers to begin harvesting unless maintenance work is satisfactorily completed, said Mr Chaudhry.
Mahendra P Chaudhry