Cane pay top up

GOVERNMENT must top up the fourth cane payment to ensure canegrowers receive more than $80 per tonne of cane for the 2015 season, says the Fiji Cane Growers Association at the announcement of the payment this week.

“They have to do this to ease the financial hardship of growers,” said general secretary Bala Dass.

“The fourth cane payment of $11.12 per tonne of cane brings the total paid out so far to $73.56.

“The final cane payment will be a meagre sum as evidenced by the payout of 30 cents per tonne as final payment in October last year.

“This was increased to 71 cents per tonne after distribution of growers’ share of proceeds from the liquidation of Fiji Sugar Marketing in 2009.

“The total payout for 2014 was $81 inclusive of the 41 cents that growers received as their share from liquidation of Fiji Sugar Marketing.

“This means that the proceeds so far received by growers is about $7 less than what they received around the same time last year.”

Mr Dass’ sentiments were shared by National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

“This is absolutely shocking and a big blow to all growers,” he said.

“How are they expected to put food on the table and prepare for harvesting from this paltry payment?

“When you consider the majority of farmers plant an average of 150 tonnes, this amounts to less than $2000.

“This is not enough to repair machinery, feed families and provide shelter.

“Many growers are trying to piece their homes and lives together after the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Winston and this payment does nothing to instil confidence or their worth in an industry they are supposedly the biggest stakeholder in.”

Farmers say the total cost of producing, harvesting and transporting one tonne of cane to the mill is $49.

Based on an $80 per tonne cane payment, growers producing 200 tonnes of cane earn about $6200 per annum making them among the lowest income earners in the country.

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