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The $10 million (US$5 million) assistance package for sugarcane farmers announced by the Fijian Government on Monday has been labelled as "politics of panic" by the National Federation Party (NFP).
If Government had not picked up the deductions, party leader Professor Biman Prasad said farmers would have ended up with only $4.586m (US$2.177 million) from the total of $14.586m (US$6.924 million) paid out to them as fourth cane payment of $10.57 (US$5) per tonne.
Prof Prasad said the announcement confirmed the party's long held view that majority of the cane farmers were in debt in perpetuity.
“Most importantly, 70 per cent of farmers' income has already been deducted as debt, fertiliser, harvesting expenses and land rent in the previous three payments for the 2016 season. Nobody will be fooled by this vote-buying gimmick”"
On Monday, Sayed-Khaiyum called on politicians such as Prof Prasad and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry to stop the mischief making and misleading farmers about the closure of the Penang Sugar Mill in Rakiraki.
Chaudhry claimed farmers did not want charity from Government, but a fair cane price of $100 (US$50).
Chaudhry said this was what the party together with the National Farmers Union had been fighting for.
“If this is politicising the issue, so be it. It would have been much better if Government had heeded the call from growers for it to top up their 4th cane payment to $20 (US$10) a tonne,” he said.
“They are desperate for assistance to meet the high costs of preparations for harvest this season. Such assistance would have benefited all farmers including those affected by Cyclone Winston,” he claimed.
Chaudhry also described Sayed-Khaiyum's claim that FLP and NFP were politicising the sugar industry as “nonsense”. He claimed about 65 per cent of farmers would not receive benefits from this grant.
“These are the farmers in Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi and Sigatoka,” he said.
SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS
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