The Sugar Cane Growers Council, the umbrella group representing cane farmers since 1985, has been abolished by the interim regime.
The SCGC has been given three months to wind up its operations, with the regime not saying what will become of the Council’s headquarters in Lautoka.
In Jun, we predicted the regime would throw out the Growers Council, the last of the democratic institutions in Fiji. The SCGC is a totally independent body, funded purely by cane farmers since its inception.
The regime has also failed to inform farmers who will represent their interests under the Sugar Master Award. In the absence of any reasoning, we can expect the Master Award to be changed or even abolished, taking farmers back to the dark days of CSR – Colonial Sugar Refining Company when farmers were simply helpless and subjected to harsh penalties and given low income for their crop.
If the Master Award is abolished, then farmers will lose 70% of proceeds as stated in the agreement – a formula that was recommended by Lord Denning in 1969 following a mighty struggle by farmers’ leaders at that time.
The scrapping of the Growers Council can be likened to the final nail in the coffin of farmers, they who have already lost $172 million in direct European Union grants since the December 2006 coup.