Northern cane farmers want refund

Cane farmers in Labasa are prepared for this harvesting season. Picture: FT FILE/SERAFINA SILAITOGA

Cane farmers in the North want the Fiji Sugar Corporation to refund the 67 cents per tonne deducted from the fourth cane payment for last season’s crop.

Growers interviewed by this newspaper yesterday said there were no consultations or prior communication before the ‘certified deduction’ was made.

Many who have been in the industry for decades said it was the first time for them to see money taken from them under the title ‘certified deductions’.

Though FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark had clarified the reason for the deduction, farmers said they should not have to bear the cost.

Tabia farmer Vijen Prasad said this was the first time for him to have such a big chunk of money deducted from his payment.

“We lost more than $500 for this deduction alone,” he said.

“My brothers and I have been farmers for about 20 years and have never seen any kind of ‘certified deduction’ made in any cane payment before.

“What is this deduction for? Why didn’t FSC inform the farmers that there will be an extra deduction made in this payment?

“They should have consulted us and informed us before the payments were made.”

Seaqaqa growers shared similar sentiments.

Samuel Lestro, secretary of the Natua Solove Combined Co-operative Ltd, said their 15 members wanted a refund.

“This certified deduction is supposed to be made from proceeds of sugar sold and what remains is then distributed to farmers,” he said.

“As it is, we are bearing the cost of everything and FSC should have informed us about it before making this deduction.”

In response, Mr Clark said the inclusion of the deduction was for transparency and deductions were made according to the Master Award and approved by the Sugar Industry Tribunal.

He told this newspaper there were plans to meet the growers’ representatives to work on ways of improving communication with farmers.

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