28 Sep 2005

Fiji opposition says farmers will reject government's sugar inustry reforms

9:37 am on 28 September 2005

Fiji's opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has warned that the government's plans to reform the ailing sugar industry are doomed to fail because the farmers will never agree to it.

His comments follow the report to parliament this week by the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, who chaired the ad hoc Select Committee on Sugar Industry Reform.

Mr Qarase said it was disappointing the Labour Party had boycotted the committee from the time the Reconciliation and Unity Bill was tabled but by that time much of their work had been done.

He said the Sugar Commission would be abolished and the operation and structure of the Sugar Cane Growers Council rationalised.

The prime minister said the Fiji Sugar Corporation Act would be amended to enable the full commercialisation of the corporation.

But Mr Chaudhry, who also leads the National Farmers Union, says the farmers would never agree to the reforms because they would not benefit.

Mr Chaudhry says the opposition has never agreed to the changes proposed by Mr Qarase because they are based on assumptions made by the government.

He says the farmers would not agree to a quality cane payment system unless there are significant improvements in milling performances.