Farmers in Fiji ‘shortchanged’ in cane payments; lost $13.8m

Northern canefarmers at the consultation in Wainikoro, Macuata. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA/FT FILE

Sugarcane farmers in Fiji lost $13.87 million after being “shortchanged” in their cane payments from 2019 to 2021.

Sugar Minister Charan Jeath Singh said this in Parliament this week.

“Yes, there was a shortchange but let me go beyond 2019. Let us start with 2017,” Mr Singh said.

“In 2017, the previous government gave $85 per tonne. In 2018, they also gave $85 per tonne.

“What happened in 2019? What the former minister for economy said, and I quote: ‘What’s new in this budget is that we will be setting up a stabilisation fund, funded in partnership with Fiji Sugar Corporation of $85 a tonne for all cane payment for the next three years’.

“That was what the former minister for economy said. Now come 2019, instead of paying $85, they paid $82.21, a shortfall of $2.79.”

Mr Singh said in 2020, farmers were paid $82.41, a shortfall of $2.59 and in 2021, they were paid $81.93, a shortfall of $3.07.

“In that case, the farmers lost $13.87 million and you fooled the cane farmers.

“I am a cane farmer. I lost $8500 in the shortchange.

“There is a saying that goes that you can fool someone sometimes but you cannot fool someone all the time. And that is why they fooled the farmers.”

His comments were met with jeers from the Opposition side, with FijiFirst MP Parveen Kumar responding to the claims.

“I just want to inform the honourable minister that the short change that he has been talking about, which he has not revealed, was for the industry cost,” Mr Kumar said.

“That was paid on behalf of the farmers. Please go and do some research.”

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