“We have also been calling for a $10 a tonne top up on the 4th cane payment to take it to $20 per tonne. The NFU has a march organised in Labasa for 26 May to protest against the government’s failure to meet this demand,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Commenting on the $10.5m grant announced by Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum yesterday, Mr Chaudhry said it was nothing new and would assist less than one-third of the growers.
“At least 65% of them will not receive any benefits from this grant. These are the farmers in Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi and Sigatoka.
In fact, the grant is something that was promised by the FF government to cane growers affected by Cyclone Winston. Some 3000 of them, victims of the cyclone, had borrowed from the Sugar Fund. Government had promised then to pay for this loan and that is what it is doing. These are farmers from Rakiraki to Lovu in Lautoka.
“As for taking up growers’ debt repayments due from the 4th cane payment, most of these had already been recovered from the first three cane payments. So there’s no real assistance there,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“It would have been much better if government had heeded the call from growers for it to top up their 4th cane payment to $20 a tonne. They are desperate for assistance to meet the high costs of preparations for harvest this season.
“Such assistance would have benefited all farmers including those affected by Cyclone Winston,” he said.
Mr. Chaudhry described Mr. Khaiyum’s claim that FLP and NFP were politicising the sugar industry as “nonsense”.
It is the Bainimarama government that has disenfranchised the growers and taken away their voice and participation in the decision making process of the industry.
“We are fighting to restore the voice and dignity of the cane farmer who will not tolerate any more bullying from the Bainimarama government. Even this limited assistance to cane farmers today is coming through pressure we have mounted.”
“The National Farmers Union has been the voice of the cane farmers for the past 40 years and we have very effectively and successfully fulfilled this role in that time,” Mr Chaudhry said.