31 Mar 2017

Fiji's NFP promises a new Penang Sugar Mill

5:13 pm on 31 March 2017

Fiji's opposition National Federation Party is promising to build a new sugar mill in Penang for the cane growers of Rakiraki if it becomes the government next year.

The damaged sugar mill at Rakiraki.

The damaged sugar mill at Rakiraki. Photo: RNZ / Juliette Sivertsen

This is the latest salvo after the Fiji Sugar Corporation announced plans to shut the mill, which was badly damaged by last year's Cyclone Winston.

In a statement, the NFP said the permanent shutdown of the Penang Mill was ill-conceived and irrational.

Earlier, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, had said the Penang mill was beyond repair after the NFP presented a petition from the cane growers asking for the mill to be restored.

The NFP said the government and the FSC were clearly prioritising the corporation's financial viability over the survival and livelihood of cane growers.

It said such a move treated the growers as sacrificial lambs.

The NFP said the corporation was wrong to claim it would cost up to $US24 million dollars to restore the mill.

It said that figure came after the FSC had already cannibalised the Penang mill - stripping it of parts and shipping them to other mills.

A Rakiraki sugar cane grower said the town was struggling already and the closure of the Penang mill would have a catastrophic effect.

Rakiraki suffered cyclone damage and has been badly affected by flooding since then.

One cane grower, Pushp Dass, who organised a petition to parliament two weeks ago calling for the mill to be kept open, said its shutdown would have a devastating impact on Rakiraki.

"Our backbone, our bread and butter, has been sugar cane. And [if the] sugar industry goes down, Rakiraki will not be Rakiraki anymore," he said.

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