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Minister refutes claim

Aqela Susu
Thursday, March 08, 2018

ATTORNEY-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has refuted a statement earlier made by the National Federation Party on the increase in butter prices, saying it was "completely false".

During a recent visit to the Northern Division, NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad claimed that the increase in butter prices was Government driven.

Prof Prasad claimed the high price of butter was because Government's preferential of zero duty on imports of milk products including butter to the parent company of Fiji Dairy Ltd, while other companies paid 32 per cent duty on such imports.

The NFP leader also said that a NFP government would list butter as a basic food item, remove VAT from it and the zero duty concession enjoyed by the said company to allow importers to play on a level playing field.

While responding to a question by Government Member of Parliament Samuela Vunivalu in Parliament yesterday, the A-G said Fiji imported majority of its butter slabs from New Zealand and as such, New Zealand prices influenced butter prices locally.

"What we call Rewa Butter is in fact butter that was already made in New Zealand," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"The reality is butter prices are price controlled at the retailer.

"And the fact is that the world price of butter has gone up. If your source of butter is not from your own country, then you will be affected by the world commodity prices.

"Madam Speaker, the reality is when Southern Cross Foods came into Rewa Dairy, Rewa Dairy had a debt stock of $17 million.

"We need to ensure that there are certain food sources of ours that still have capacity. If we shut down Rewa Dairy and bring all our milk from overseas because of this notion of zero rating duty, what if the world price of milk goes up?

"We will all be vulnerable to it. What will happen to our dairy farmers? Will we convert them into cattle farmers?

"This is again a sign of cheap politics, not representing facts," he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the move by NFP did not make economic sense.

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