Speech by the Executive Director of the ISO - Dr Peter Baron


Dr. Peter Baron, Executive Director
International Sugar Organization

43rd Session of the International Sugar Council
Opening Ceremony

Monday 3 June 2013

Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister and Sugar Minister of Fiji, and Chairman of the International Sugar Council.

Mr. Manasa Vaniqi, Permanent Secretary for Sugar, distinguished Ministers, Your Excellencies, representatives of the Corps Diplomatique, members of the International Sugar Council, distinguished observers and guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

For the ISO 2013 is our “Fiji” year! We are excited and happy to be here for our 43rd International Sugar Council on the invitation of the:
- Government of the Republic of Fiji;
- The sugar industry of Fiji, represented by Abdul Khan, Executive Chairman of the Fiji Sugar Corporation; and
- Sundresh Chetty, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Sugar Cane Growers Council in Fiji.
This invitation is also an encouragement and an additional motivation for my staff and myself in our continued strive to serve our members in the best way possible.

Thank you wholeheartedly for this kind invitation and your generous hospitality on your paradise like island nation in the South Pacific ocean. We are proud to be here!
This place is about the furthest you can go from our Headquarters in London. However despite this tremendous distance between the UK and Fiji of 9,844 miles or 15,842 kilometres our relationship is a very close one. This invitation underlines the constructive and trusting relationship that exists between Fiji and the ISO.

We in the ISO are very proud to be invited by Fiji. Fiji is one of our longest standing member countries and has been associated with the International Sugar Council since in 1968 when Fiji appears for the first time in the Sugar Yearbook. There are not many countries that can claim a longer affiliation with us.

Fijian have also held important offices:
- Bruce Dowling, representing Fiji, chaired the Executive Committee in 1978
- Sung Kangwai was Chair of the Administrative Committee in 1997;
- Prime Minister Josiah Voreqe Bainimarama was Vice Chair of the Council for 2012 and was elected Chairman of the Council for 2013.

Compared to last year’s host country for the Council, India, Fiji is a tiny island state with a population of only 837,000 people (about one tenth of greater London).

800 plus volcanic and coral islands make up the Pacific nation of Fiji. Fiji is one of the most developed of the Pacific island countries, however, still with a large subsistence sector. Sugarcane has been grown here since 1862. Agriculture contributes 18% to the GDP and sugarcane processing makes up about one third of the industrial activity.

The main sources of foreign exchange are the preferential sugar exports to the EU, tourism, garments and remittances from Fijian workers abroad.

For those guests who are not so familiar with the International Sugar Organization I would like to give you a few facts:

The ISO has at present 86 member countries and there are indications that this number will increase further in the near future. These members:
- 87% of world sugar production,
- 69% of world sugar consumption,
- 95% of world net exports, and
- 44% of net imports.

Since 1994 membership has more than doubled from 39 to 86 countries (120%). This makes the ISO by far the biggest commodity organization worldwide and I am confident that we still can attract new members.

The ISO takes a proactive approach and is a modern service oriented organization, responding flexibly to the needs and requirements of members.

Our clear strategic direction which was approved by the council in 2009 is still bearing fruit, hereby further strengthening our unique and important role as the only worldwide forum for the exchange of views by major producing, consuming and trading countries at an intergovernmental level.

The ISO’s ambition is to make a distinct contribution in the process to find solutions for a world sugar economy in an environment undergoing permanent change induced by privatisation, globalisation, liberalisation and diversification.
The research done by the Secretariat is aimed at facilitating the better understanding of the complex economic and policy related key drivers shaping the future face of the world sugar economy. The transformation of sugar beet and sugar cane from a food into a food and energy crop has been actively furthered. Already in 1995 the ISO organised the first international workshop in Brazil on the topic: “Sugar, alcohol and environment”.

Our Seminars have become a flagship product considered by experts as one of the best sugar events worldwide. This year at the end of November we are holding our 22nd ISO Seminar on “Commercial Success for Sugar Crops – Investment, Innovation and Efficiency” in London with a highly topical programme.

We see it as our overriding task to help, to support and to assist our members in their efforts to cope with the challenges of this change.

I am very happy to welcome a delegation from the People’s Republic of China as an observer. Seeing the International Sugar Organization at work, like at these meetings, is maybe the best argument in favour of joining the ISO.

Coming back to Fiji:
Since 1987 Fiji unfortunately is sailing through a politically very rough sea, nourished by racial and political tensions. This caused a lot of harm to the economy, to tourism and to Fiji’s international reputation. This has been a source of instability and attempts to isolate Fiji in the international arena. The country experienced four coups in 20 years. All this made a harmonious, balanced, economic development extremely difficult.
These disturbances have of course also impacted negatively on the Fijian sugar scenery. Over the last few years production and exports eroded in a slow by steady process almost 50%. Considerations of diversification, ethanol or co-generation are still at the very beginning. In a nutshell the industry is performing far below its potential. To recover to old strength and tap the full potential mainly five things are needed.
1. Political stability;
2. Improved performance in field and factory;
3. Improved harvest efforts and modern technology; and
4. Focused and targeted use of the money for accompanying measures paid by the EU to the ACP countries including Fiji.
5. To address the land tenure system.
The last two crushing seasons showed already an encouraging improvement.
The recent political developments, are promising and hopeful. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group in September 2012 “welcomed continued progress in Fiji including the completion of the first phase of voter registration and commencement of the constitutional consultation process.”

In addition a Fact Finding Mission of the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentarian Assembly to Fiji concluded “we remain confident that with enough political will the Fijian people will find solutions to the political issues that confront them and thus build a better society for present and future generations.”

And finally the leaders of the Pacific Island Forum, “noted progress made towards the election in 2014 including the registration of voters, the establishment of a Constitutional Commission and the assurances given that there would be freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media.”

This all shows that Fiji is in a decisive political, economic and social process which will deliver a new constitution by September 2013 and finally lead to democratic elections in September 2014.

In this context it bodes well that a recent wave of optimism regarding the future of the Fiji sugar industry if emerging.

Fiji’s sugarcane farmers are hailing this year’s high payout for cane in the order of US$44/tonne and see it as a sign pointing to a bright future.

Sundresh Chetty, CEO of the Fiji Sugarcane Growers Council sees it as “a milestone achievement for the Fiji sugar industry.”

We wish our Fijian sugar friends the best of luck on this promising way!
The fact that Prime Minister Bainimarama was prepared to accept the Chairmanship of the International Sugar Council and the presence of many distinguished dignitaries at our Opening Ceremony makes us proud and underlines the commitment of the government of Fiji to its sugar economy.

A word of appreciation as well to the High Commissioner of Fiji in London, H.E. Solo Mara, who contributed with his advice and help to a smooth running of the event. This goes also for Nidhen Singh, in Brussels.

Let me also thank those who have been working here in Fiji behind the scenes so efficiently to organise these meetings. This goes for Timothy Brown, Viliame Gucake, and Rusila Bovoro. In this thanks I want also to include my whole team.
I am sure we will have an interesting, stimulating workshop and constructive meetings on this beautiful island with his hospitable, friendly people.

Once again our wholehearted thanks to our host country.