NFP to move motion during budget debate to restore guaranteed sugar price to $85 per tonne

NFP to move motion during budget debate to restore guaranteed sugar price to $85 per tonne

By Naveel Krishant
Monday 20/07/2020
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad

The National Federation Party says they will move a motion during the budget debate to restore the guaranteed sugar price to $85 per tonne from $70 to give the livelihood of farmers some stability.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says let this serve as notice to those FijiFirst MPs who seek their votes from growers and their families because they will inform the growers how they were betrayed if these MPs vote against this motion.

Professor Prasad says the government has grossly betrayed the trust and pre-election promise to cane growers by reducing the guaranteed cane price and kicked the growers and their families in the guts.

He adds while it is perfectly understandable that collective Cabinet responsibility requires every Minister to agree with Government policies, growers want to know whether Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama who is also the Minister for Sugar agreed to drastically cut the guaranteed price despite repeated assurances by him on the issue at every sugar industry-related event to maintain the guaranteed price for three years.

He says growers are also angry and realise that while the industry, together with the agricultural sector, is unaffected by COVID-19 and in prime position to resuscitate the economy, it is them who are made sacrificial lambs.

Prasad claims what this means is that 8,332 or minimum of 70 per cent of active cane growers out of 11,902 active growers, as stated by FSC’s 2019 Annual Report, who produce an average of 142 tonnes of cane or less, will only earn a net profit of $1,420 per season to be paid over 16 months.

He says at the same time, the Prime Minister, who is the Sugar Minister received an average of $3,000 per day as overseas travelling allowance in 2019.

Prasad says that is more than 50% of what an average producing grower receives as net income in 16 months adding this is grossly insulting, yet the Prime Minister’s silence is deafening.

While announcing the 2020-2021 National Budget, Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said once Fiji’s larger economic recovery gets underway, the bottom-line of the cane growers will be among their priorities.

Sayed-Khaiyum had said on Friday that for two straight seasons they have paid cane growers $85 per tonne – a value far above the world market price adding that last season’s guaranteed price will be paid.

But Sayed-Khaiyum says in the final third season of the arrangement, they are reducing the guaranteed price for cane from $85 to $70 adding all other support to cane growers will continue.

$33 million was utilized to make up for the $85 guaranteed price for the 2018 sugarcane season.

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