The National Farmers Union has warned that the collapse of the sugar industry would bring with it untold hardship on those that depend on it for everyday living.
Sounding this warning at the Annual General Meeting of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, NFU General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry said it would also hit hard the incomes of the landowners who benefit substantially from the lease monies paid to them.
Chaudhry said this will not only affect landowners but rural community in the sugar belt as well as the those in the urban centres who depend on it for their livelihood -cane cutters, mill workers and businesses.
He said farmers must be given a fair voice in the affairs of the sugar industry if it is to survive from its downward plunge.
“The industry today was paying the price for years of misdirected policies imposed on it by the Fiji First government. The dismantling of its tripartite governance structure in 2010 by Bainimarama marginalized the growers completely, giving total control to FSC and the Sugar ministry.”
He said this has to be reversed to win back the confidence of the growers.
Chaudhry has assured the meeting that NFU, as the largest growers union, was prepared to assist in the industry’s rejuvenation process provided the growers were given due recognition.
“The Union had been calling for an all industry stakeholders’ conference to discuss a road map for its recovery. Unfortunately, the FF government did not entertain the idea.”
The former Prime Minister urged the Coalition Government to take an inclusive approach.
He added sugar exports and local sales earned around $205 million last year and FSC recorded an operating loss of $23m for the year.