Low cane price not a good start to 2019 season: Chaudhry

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry. Picture: FT FILE/JOVESA NAISUA

LOW global sugar prices resulting in a low forecast price for the 2019 season by the Fiji Sugar Corporation, escalating labour costs and no solution to the weight restriction on cane lorry issue is not a good sign for the start of the 2019 harvest and crush season.

This was the view expressed by National Farmers Union general secretary and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry yesterday.

“Cane farmers must now seriously consider whether they want to continue cultivating cane faced with the continuing low cane prices,” Mr Chaudhry said in a statement issued yesterday.

“FSC announced a shockingly low forecast price of $53.69 a tonne for the 2019 season. This means that the delivery payment will be $32.43 a tonne, well below costs incurred by the farmer to harvest and transport cane to the mills.

“The 2019 forecast price is $12.39 lower than that for last year which was $66.08.

“The delivery payment this year is $7.32 less than the $39.65 paid last year. No cane farmer can survive on such prices. We urge growers to seriously consider diversifying to other cash crops if they want a sustainable livelihood.

“The world market price for raw sugar is low and our 2018 season exports fetched the farmer around $63 per tonne which is absolutely unsustainable. This meant that the Government was to supplement it by $22 to meet the $85 guaranteed price which it announced before the 2018 general elections.”

According to global media agencies, sugar prices finished 2018 at its lowest prices since 2008 with spot raw sugar closed at 12.03 cents per pound – a 20.6 per cent decline year on year.

In response, the FSC said it did not respond to third-party comments, but had issued a statement on the fourth cane payment and the payment was being processed, with details to be communicated once formalities were concluded.

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