Friday, 23 September 2016 14:51

Ministry of Planning Makes Payment To Cane Farmers

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The Minister of Planning and Development, the Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, issued the first of many cheques intended for cane farmers.

Mr. Sundaresan Seepersad, President and representative member of Direct Delivery Cane Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited was on hand to receive his cheque.

Cabinet, in a meeting on July 28th, 2016 agreed to pay the Cane Farmers the sum of $57, 965,675.00 for Tranches II and III of the Compensation Package as a final settlement to the 2007 Transitional Payment out of the Sugar Industry. Tranche I has already been issued to the Cane Farmers of which 2,740 from the eligible 3,481 farmers have received payments in the value of $24,151,385 TT. Members of Direct Delivery Cane Farmers’ Co-operative Society were the first to accept the new offer.

* The following is the statement to the media delivered by Planning Minister.

Mrs. Joanne Deoraj, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development;
Ms. Marion Lewis, Assistant Programme Coordinator Head, European Development Fund Unit;
Mr. Sundaresan Seepersad, President and representative members of Direct Delivery Cane Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited;
Representatives of the media

Good morning to everyone in attendance here this morning, thank you all for coming.I am elated to commence this journey marking the delivery of Government’s promise to pay the cane farmers. We are acting in good faith by presenting this first cheque and will act in good faith to all of the cane farmer representative groups once they have accepted the offer presented.

Cabinet by Minute No. 40 of August 4, 2016 agreed to the payment of the sum of TT$57,965,675.00 to cane farmers as the final settlement to the 2007 transitional payment out of the Sugar Industry.

By letter dated August 24, 2016 Mr. Sundaresan Seepersad, President, Direct Delivery Cane Farmers’ Co-operative Society Ltd. accepted on behalf of himself and his members Government’s offer to settle payments under Tranches II and III as agreed by Cabinet.

To date, the other Cane Farmers’ organization have not indicated their interest in accepting Government’s offer. These are namely:
• Cane Farmers Association of Trinidad and Tobago
• Trinidad Islandwide Cane Farmers’ Association
• Cane Farmers Co-op Society

At a meeting on September 20, 2016 Mr. Seepersad agreed to the formulae for the distribution of the approved sum of TT$57,965,675.00 to cane farmers.
Essence of the formulae:
• Eligible farmers would be 2,324 farmers for Tranche II and Tranche III
• An amount equal to 53 per cent of the sum of Trance II and Tranche III to be paid
• There is to be a minimum payment of TT$ 12,000

In this compensation package to former cane farmers the highest money value is a little over $500,000 and the minimum payment is $12,000. It is in keeping with the previous agreement and depends on the value of the cane farmer production.

Range of Payment      No of farmers
Minimum $12,000      644
12,001- 100,000       1,638
100,001 -200,000     34
200,001 -300,000     6
300,001 - 400,000    none
400,000 -500,000     1
500,000-600,000      1

Background details
The Government decided to exit sugar manufacturing in 2007. The exit of Government from the manufacturing of sugar was also discussed with the other major stakeholders in the industry including:

 Sugarcane Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited;
 Trinidad Island Wide Can Farmers’ Association;
 Cane Producers Association of Trinidad and Tobago;
 Direct Delivery Canefarmers’ Co-operative Society Limited; and
 Canefarmers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago Limited.

The Government, through a ministerial committee, negotiated an exit strategy from the sugar industry for the members of the sugar farming groups if they so desire. Four groups executed an agreement on the terms and conditions for the exit strategy.

1. Trinidad IslandwideCanefarmers’ Association, on September 26th 2007 signed by Mr. Rafeeq Shah, Chairman
2. Canefarmer’s Association of Trinidad and Tobago, on September 26th 2007 signed by Mr. Dipchan Lal, President
3. Direct Delivery Canefarmers’ Co-operative Society Limited, on September 26th 2007 signed by Sundaresan Seepersad, President; and
4. The Sugarcane Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited on September 25th 2007, signed by Ramdeo Ramcharan, President.

The Cane Producers Association of Trinidad and Tobago, a small group of farmers of approximately 100 farmers, lead by Mr. SeukeranTambie did not execute the agreement.

The benefits cane farmers have received from the Government since the closure of Caroni
• October 30, 2007 to June 2010 (on the basis of an audit conducted by the accounting firm Ernst & Young) - Three thousand four hundred and eighty-one (3,481) sugarcane farmers under the compensation package were paid an amount $82,111,774 which was paid in 38 payment tranches over the period as transitional support for two and a half (2½) years: January 2008 – June 2010. The payment of compensation represents an agreement for direct transitional financial support to allow the restructuring of the agricultural activities of these former sugar cane farmers subsequent to their exit of the sugar operations.

• Former sugarcane farmers who had tenancies with Caroni or who were squatting on state lands were regularized through the issuance of agricultural leases under the applicable terms and conditions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. They were eligible to access to a two (2) acre plot of agricultural land for the purpose of conducting agricultural activities. This programme was conducted on a phased basis and covered approximately 6000 farmers with tenancies on approximately 13,000 acres.

• Arrangements were made for sugarcanefarmers to become registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources to allow them to benefit from the incentives of the Agricultural Incentive Programme and to access the concessionary resources from the low interest window of the Agricultural Development Bank.

• A training needs assessment was undertaken in 2003 and a training plan took place during the period 2003-2007. The result was the completion of training programmes by 18 different institutions in twenty technical and agricultural programmes. Approximately 2,500 farmers and former employees benefitted from this at a cost of $16.52 M.

When the Decision was taken?
The decision was made on January 8, 2015.
Cabinet by Minute Number 3523 dated 8th January, 2015 approved the compensation package in the sum of TTD$130 million for former cane farmers as a final settlement to the 2007 transition payment out of the Sugar Industry, to be disbursed as follows;
• First tranche to be based on TT$27 million presently available under the EU AMSPC programme- MIP 2011-2013, which was already within the consolidated fund. The Ministry of Finance advised that such funds present should be used;
• On receipt by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago ( GORTT) of the € 8 Mn from the European Union in 2015;
o A second tranche of TT$ 75 Mn
o A third tranche of TT$ 28 Mn in 2016
 Such funding is still to be identified within Government resources

Cabinet by Minute Number 945 of April 23, 2015 agreed to the proposed formula and that the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development now Ministry of Planning and Development in collaboration with the then Ministry of Food production, now Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Affairs, would be responsible for administering the distribution of the final compensation to the eligible cane farmers
Note that the actual amount received from the EU was TT$57,965,675 which is the amount Cabinet on July 28, 2016 approved to pay Cane Farmers. There are no more funds to be obtained from the EU under this programme. Therefore the remaining sum being requested by the cane farmers to be paid for Tranche II and III is TT$ 45,034,325.00 which would have to be come from government funds
Note that the sum of TT$57,965,675 plus the Tranche I sum of TT$27 which makes it a total of TT$84,965,675 is in addition to the TT$82,111,774 paid in 2007. The 2007 and 2015/2016 payments gives a total compensation package of TT$167,077,449 to Cane Farmers.

Cane Farmers Compensation Package
Year Amount
2007 Payment 82,111,774
2015 Tranche I 27,000,000
2016 Tranche II and III 57,965,675
Sub-total 2015/2016 84,965,675

Total 167,077,449

The number of cane farmers who are scheduled to benefit
3,481 cane farmers are to benefit this is in accordance with the number of farmers benefitting for the Caroni 1975 Payment in 2007.
To date out of the 3,481 eligible farmers cheques have been prepared for 2,740 farmers at a sum of TT$24,151,385. A total of 316 farmers have not signed the Agreement Letter and Statement and there are 425 queries to be addressed. Cheques have been distributed to 2,613 Cane Farmers as part of the 1st Tranche of payments.

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