Actually I am tired of listening to my own pronouncements on the stratagems by which small cane farmers and cane farmers in general are induced into believing that they are being treated magnanimously by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Someone, in bringing to attention the public announcement about a rotating loans fund for small cane farmers only, mentioned en passant that there was reason to conduct an intensive review of the National Cane Farming Committee Act which was promulgated as far back as when the industry was privately owned and managed.
The argument was that the new state-owned arrangement must invite some relevant changes.
Without disagreeing with the proposition, I countered that there was still substantive relevance in the apparent outdated legislation, in respect of the following provisions, for example:
a) the formation of eight (8) Cane Farmers District Associations, who would recommend their respective representation on the National Cane Farming Committee;
b) the registration of all cane farmers (large or small);
c) the execution of the Cane Farmer’s Contract (General Conditions) Rules attached as regulations to the NCFC Act – between Manufacturer (the Estate) and the registered cane farmer – “for the cultivation, sale and processing of sugar”;
d) the registration of all Contracts (which include the price formula to be utilised for the purchase of cane by the Manufacturer);
e) the pre-requirement to utilise the juice quality of a sample of the farmer’s cane in order to compute the price therefor;
f) the provision for each estate to assign a ‘Cane Farming Officer’ to coordinate technical support to the farmer, for the orderly development of the cultivation and its productivity;
g) cane farmers’ access to funds as provided by the Special Funds Act, which refers to the:
• Sugar Industry Price Stabilisation Fund;
• Sugar Industry Rehabilitation Fund both of which may no longer be viable
Certainly however, the other Special Fund – the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund – is still operational, and is accessible by cane farmers.
The Sugar Industry (Labour Welfare Fund) Regulations (2(b) definition of ‘a labour worker’ includes “any person engaged in the production of sugar cane for sale to an exporter”.
The “exporter means any person engaged in the manufacture of sugar for export”.
It behoves the management of GuySuCo to live up to their responsibility of complying with the statutes which dictate their relationship with cane farmers.
At the same time the latter should become equally alert to their obligations of jointly executing the statutory Cane Farmers’ Contract, in order to benefit from its provisions.
E B John