The CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Vimal Dutt says the $85 per tonne guaranteed cane price is a gross cane payment which will have deductions and the industry costs and other associated deductions are legitimate however the General Secretary of the National Farmers Union, Mahendra Chaudhry says all money improperly deducted from the final cane payment for the 2020 crop should be refunded to cane farmers.
Dutt says the $600,000 deduction for the Growers Micro Bundle Insurance Scheme is a deduction from the growers total share of proceeds and not from the unit price of around 12,000 growers.
Dutt further says this is the only material methodology for deductions now as there is no alternative solution to it. He adds the Council has the mandate to make decisions on behalf of the growers especially when it is to do with their welfare and stresses it is a blanket cover.
He says they are fortunate that Fiji Care has provided an affordable initiative.
Dutt says in time to come they may explore external funding that would probably ease the situation. He says the Sugar Cane Growers Fund paid the premium for the Growers Micro Bundle Insurance Scheme from 2017 to 2020 and the Government also paid the premiums for 6 months.
He further says this means it becomes the responsibility of the growers to pay the premiums for the 2021 season. According to Dutt, 360 growers have benefitted from the claims with a value of $1.1 million which means this money has reached the growers and their families.
However Mahendra Chaudhry has criticized the $600,000 deduction made for the Growers Micro Bundle Insurance Scheme. He says 90 percent of the farmers have not signed up for this scheme and its voluntary.
Chaudhry says the deduction is based on 37 cents per tonne and if a farmer who is harvesting 1,000 tonnes of cane is paying $370 premium and a farmer who is producing 100 tonnes of cane is paying only $37 premium which means there is inequity in the ratio of premium that each farmer is paying.
He adds it is grossly unfair for FSC to have made deductions for fertilizers, weedicides, sugar and rice supplied to farmers in the 2021 season, from the proceeds of their 2020 crop.
When contacted, the CEO of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, Bhan Pratap Singh says all deductions have been made in accordance with the provisions contained in the Master Award.
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