The marketing of Fiji sugar should be a collective affair and that growers must be consulted on all issues.
Sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi made these comments in response to concerns raised by cane growers in the Western Division about moves by the industry to sell raw sugar to buyers apart from UK buyer Tate and Lyle Sugars.
While he emphasised the need for farmers to be consulted on any proposals to sell locally-produced sugar outside of Tate and Lyle Sugars, he said it was also important that all industry stakeholders were aware of changes on the global market and how this affected the local industry.
“We need to talk and take collective responsibility for all aspects of the industry and this is one of the things that we have discussed as stakeholders — that growers must be consulted on all issues,” Lt-Col Vaniqi said.
“The need for proper discussion and sharing of information is imperative.
“However, in regards to our continuing trade with Tate and Lyle Sugars, that will hinge on the outcome of negotiations on the European Union’s extension of quota.
“The price has got to be right to make it viable for us to continue to sell all our sugar to Tate and Lyle.”
In an interview with this newspaper, Rarawai-Penang Cane Producers Association president Gyan Singh said growers needed to be consulted on any decision to sell locally-produced sugar because of their stake in the industry.
He was speaking in response to statements made by FSC executive chairman Abdul Khan in this newspaper that Fairtrade premiums would not dictate where Fiji would sell its sugar.
Mr Khan had said negotiating the best possible price was critical for the industry to remain sustainable and there were other buyers within the EU that expressed interest in Fiji sugar.
Mr Singh said any decision to look outside of Tate and Lyle could affect growers’ confidence in the industry.
“There are a number of reasons why we are worried. Firstly, there is the longstanding co-operation and commitment that Tate and Lyle has had with us through some of the toughest times that the industry has faced,” he said.
“And then there is no denying the fact that Tate and Lyle has contributed to our mills improving by providing technical support staff.”
Sugarcane farmers have a 70 per cent stake in the industry with 30 per cent held by the FSC.
Mr Singh said the confidence of farmers was boosted with milling efficiency over the past two years and the introduction of Fairtrade premiums through Tate and Lyle Sugars.
“Tate and Lyle are the biggest sugar traders in the European Union and also have the largest slice of the Fairtrade market.
“Growers in the country have seen the benefits that Fairtrade has brought to their communities through these funds and we have just begun a pension scheme for retired growers who are over 70 years of age.
“There is growing concern that we could lose this and other initiatives planned to benefit communities and our 7000 members in the sugarcane belt.”
Lt-Col Vaniqi said Fiji’s sugarcane farmers were a critical component of the industry and it was important they were kept informed of trade issues.
“It is their right as growers and the biggest stakeholders in the industry to be informed about markets. As growers, they should be kept in the loop with regards to information that will affect their source of livelihood.”
– Fiji Times