In­fringe­ment no­tice in Bill queried

NFU head claims no­tice came with $100, $500 penal­ties

Fiji Sun - - Election Countdown 2018 - SHRATIKA NAIDU Edited by Ru­si­ate Mataika Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­

Na­tional Farm­ers Union Pres­i­dent Suren­dra Lal has ques­tioned the Par­lia­ment Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic Af­fairs why the su­gar in­dus­try in­fringe­ment no­tice has been placed in the Bill. Dur­ing a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the re­form of the Su­gar Cane In­dus­try Bill 2016 and Su­gar Cane Grow­ers Fund (Amend­ment) Bill 2016 at Ho­tel NorthPole con­fer­ence room in Labasa on Tues­day, Mr Lal said he was un­happy to see the sug­ar­cane grow­ers tar­geted.

“Is this in­fringe­ment no­tice some­thing like what Lands Trans­port Au­thor­ity is­sue?” Mr Lal ques­tioned.

“Most of our grow­ers are il­lit­er­ate and there are times when they for­get to ad­here to the Mas­ter Award. Grow­ers have lot of prob­lems and they don’t de­serve to be pun­ished.

“Who is go­ing to file re­port against the grower and who will is­sue the no­tice.” Com­mit­tee mem­ber and In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port As­sis­tant Min­is­ter Vi­jay Nath re­sponded that the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary would is­sue the no­tice. Op­po­si­tion Whip Prem Singh ques­tioned Mr Lal if this was the first he saw such no­tice. Mr Lal replied yes, adding that it came with penal­ties of $100 and $500. Com­mit­tee mem­ber and new chair of the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee, Ash­neel Sud­hakar, asked Mr Lal to read clause num­ber 57 which clearly ex­plains more on the no­tice. Mr Lal said he could not see any con­cept of hav­ing such kind of no­tice and there­fore sug­gested that they re­move it.

‘Re­vive rail­way trans­port’

The Par­lia­ment Stand­ing Com­mit­tee Eco­nomic Af­fairs were told by Mr Lal that there was an ur­gent need to re­vive the rail­way trans­porta­tion sys­tem. “Rail­way trans­porta­tion sys­tem is the most ef­fi­cient and cheap­est mode of de­liv­ery cane to the mill,” Mr Lal said. “There are many farm­ers in Daku and Wainikoro out­side Labasa Town who heav­ily rely on rail­way trans­port. FSC has not made any ef­fort to re­vive the rail­way sys­tem and I would like to re­quest if some­thing can be done. “We have writ­ten so many times to Fiji Su­gar Tri­bunal and noth­ing has been done.” Mr Nath re­sponded that since this case was be­fore the Tri­bunal he could not com­ment.

‘Labasa farm­ers de­serve to be paid bet­ter’

Labasa Cane Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (LCPA) tabled data sug­gest­ing to the Par­lia­ment Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic Af­fairs the need to make pay­ment to farm­ers ac­cord­ing to the mill per­for­mance. The stake­hold­ers gath­ered at Ho­tel North Pole con­fer­ence room in Labasa heard from LCPA Pres­i­dent Pradeep Ku­mar that Labasa farm­ers sup­plied more qual­ity cane than the other three mills. “Farm­ers in Labasa plant rec­om­mended sug­ar­cane va­ri­eties and they are Re­gena, Nadiri and Mali which have high su­gar con­tent,” Mr Ku­mar said. “The tonnes of Cane Tonnes of Su­gar (TCS) is bet­ter com­pared to other three mills over the years.

“There­fore, I sug­gest the com­mit­tee con­sider chang­ing the pay­ment sys­tem for each mill ac­cord­ing to the mill per­for­mance and sup­ply of qual­ity cane.” As­sis­tant Min­is­ter Nath re­sponded say­ing that some years back Fiji Su­gar Cor­po­ra­tion tried to con­sider this kind of sys­tem but they saw it would be very dif­fi­cult to im­pose such di­vi­sions among the mills. Mean­while, a fe­male sar­dar (leader) of 40 cane cut­ters has com­plained about some Fiji Su­gar Cor­po­ra­tion em­ploy­ees at the sec­tor of­fice show­ing favouritism when dis­tribut­ing grants to farm­ers. Ak­isi Vi­naka, who is in charge of six gangs at La­galaga, Macu­ata Prov­ince, claims that some FSC team leader handed over grants to their friends or whom they had good re­la­tion­ship in­stead of giv­ing it to other well de­served hard­work­ing farm­ers.

The 57-year-old got emo­tional sug­gest­ing to the com­mit­tee: “FSC em­ploy­ees should also visit the farm­ers and in­form them what is hap­pen­ing in the mill.” Mr Nath asked her if she meant that there was a need for more ta­lanoa ses­sion. Ms Vi­naka replied yes. “I un­der­stand your con­cern and ac­tu­ally our Prime Min­is­ter has been hav­ing many ta­lanoa ses­sions with peo­ple,” Mr Nath said. “My staff would surely take record of what you said and will see how best we can help.” Mean­while, Labasa FSC mill farm ad­vi­sory of­fi­cer Am­rika Prasad told the as­sis­tant min­is­ter that the mill would open for crush­ing sea­son on June 16. “The de­liv­ery cane pay­ment per tonne is $39.42 and the fore­cast price for this sea­son is $65.69,” Mr Prasad said. “Farm­ers would be in­formed by the Su­gar In­dus­try Tri­bunal soon.”

Photo: Shratika Naidu

New Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee chair­man Ash­neel Sud­hakar in Labasa on Tues­day as part of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic Af­fairs.

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