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In 2011, Labasa Cane Producers Association (Labasa) brought Fairtrade to Fiji as the first Fairtrade producer organisation in the country, and is set to provide stability for sugar producers in an otherwise unpredictable commodity market.
Founded in 2010, Labasa is made up of approximately 4,000 sugar cane growing members located in Western Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. The organisation’s goal is “to deliver sustainable livelihoods and development opportunities to poor cane producers, their families and the wider community.” It is estimated that approximately 15,000 people receive benefits from the organisation.
Labasa harvests its crop between June and November, producing 0.75 million metric tons of sugar cane and 60,000 metric tons of processed sugar annually. Labasa members are responsible for cultivation, harvesting and transport to the miller, and the miller is responsible for milling and exporting. Labasa’s Executive Manager Mohammed Habib reports that the organisation has the potential to increase its production a further one million tonns with increased productivity per hectare and improved farm management practices.
The Fairtrade Premium is the sum of money paid on top of the agreed upon Fairtrade Minimum Price for investment in social, environmental or economic development projects that meet the needs of producer organisations.
As a result of Labasa’s high production levels and associated sales of Fairtrade Certified product, members see the benefits of Fairtrade through the organisation’s substantial use of the Fairtrade Premium, which has funded water tanks and electronic equipment for schools, public toilets, bus shelters, and the restoration of local bridges.
In the future Labasa plan to use the Premium to invest in the following problem areas:
In July 2011, Habib was elected to serve as one of three Pacific Sub-Network Representatives. In his first duty as representative, Habib attended the Network of Asian Producers General Assembly held in January 2012 in Chennai, India.