Earlier this month, the Sugar Industry Amendment Bill was stalled by the Senate. It was rammed through the House of Representatives but senators voiced concerns against the amendment. Leader for Government Business, Senator Eamon Courtenay decided it would be best to leave the bill at the senate for further consultations. The concern was over a section that empowers the Minister of Agriculture to receive and deal with disputes and complaints. Chairman of the Sugar Industry Control Board Marcos Osorio says the amendment was needed after some associations were acting against the will of members.
Marcos Osorio, Chairman, Sugar Industry Control Board: “There were fundamental clauses in the regulations in the act before the amendment that were removed with the new amendment of 2015. So some farmers started facing challenges in their associations simply because they are voicing their concerns or we talk about freedom of speech ,we talk about democracy, the big question is do we practice it ? So now these farmers because they are asking for information, demanding form management now we are living a situation that if a farmer goes or requests something from management that management doesn’t want to listen to now we will expel that farmer. We had never heard of expulsion of farmers in the many decades that the industry had existed. And you know what is worst ? That we used the very farmer’s money to hire attorneys to go after the very farmer. Where are we going ?”
It is expected that the Senate would meet soon to ratify the amendment. However, Osorio says that the section that empowers the Agriculture Minister to settle dispute will be removed.
Marcos Osorio, Chairman, Sugar Industry Control Board: “Unfortunately when we were deliberating on where this ends and then we said if at the board a decision cannot be reached then we need to add the minister but it was not the full intention and in now way – and I agree in having a discussion with one of the senators said but remember maybe the minister we have today is not the type that would want to step in and make a decision but its in law but ministers come and go and what if tomorrow we have a minister that will not listen tadn will simply want ‘Ey the law provides for me and I will.’. Correct that’s not what we want either so we are in full agreement and I must say that the minister when we were discussing that one section, section 38, he had said no I don’t think this needs to be handed to the minister. The board should be able to take care of it but in the discussion then we concluded lets add it to give that extra backstopping but was a mistake and we admit. We have no problem that it ends at the SICB level.”
Reporter: So the minister and whole thing will be removed ?
Marcos Osorio, Chairman, Sugar Industry Control Board: “Yes.”