Approximately 5,000 sugarcane farmers who supply their cane to Labasa mill in Vanualevu, Fiji will soon benefit financially from a pilot project that will certify their farms as Fairtrade.
This was made possible after interest was shown by Tate & Lyle of United Kingdom, the largest buyers of sugar from Fiji.
According to Mohammed Habib, Fairtrade coordinator for Fiji Sugar, Tate and Lyle have committed to buying Fairtrade sugar from Fiji in order to sell to its consumers in Great Britain.
‘Under the Fairtrade system, farmers have to comply with Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) International standards to be certified,’ he said.
“FLO is an International Fairtrade organisation and aims to improve conditions for small producers and farm workers” said Mr Habib.
Mr Habib added that under Fairtrade system, farmers will be paid a Fairtrade premium in addition to the price of sugar. “This money is meant to be used to improve the lives of the farmers, their families and communities.”
“Presently the Fairtrade premium is US$60 per tonne of sugar and this Fairtrade premium is paid after farmers’ representative organization, and the exporter (Fiji Sugar Corporation) has sent reports to FLO-Cert.”
These ‘flow of goods’ reports state the volume of Fairtrade products sold and the amount of premium earned.
This, Habib added, provides a transparent medium for all cane growers and industry stakeholders to know how much they will earn from the sale of sugar under Fairtrade.
FLO-Cert representative visited Fiji in 2008 for an initial survey, and recommended a few changes in the current production system that would enable Fairtrade certification. These recommendations included developing 1) an environmental plan that provides details on how to comply with environmental standards, and 2) a plan to ensure that agrochemicals on the FLO Prohibited Materials List (e.g. paraquat) are not used on farms.
The initial survey also recommended developing an awareness campaign in inform all members of the organisation about Fairtrade and its main principles, rules and regulations.
Other recommendations included having a democratically elected representative body, with equal voting rights for all members as the supreme decision-making body for Fairtrade issues, and a plan to encourage women to be more involved in the functioning of the organisation.
The survey also recommended establishing a committee of cane grower representatives to be responsible for the transparent administration and management of the premium money, and a proper appeal mechanism if discrepancies in payment are found.
Since 2008, efforts to get the sugarcane produced in Labasa to be Fairtrade certified has gained momentum, and it is envisaged that first shipment of fair trade sugar will leave Malau port (Labasa) by the end of August this year.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community thorough its Land Resources Division’s Facilitating Agriculture Commodity Trade project is supporting the Project Management Unit for the National Adaptation Strategy for Sugar in expediting the certification process.
For further information please contact Vinesh Prasad on telephone (679)3370733 or (679) 9938746, email LRD Help Desk on email
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