MAJOR 1997 DROP IN FIJI SUGAR EARNINGS

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SUVA, Fiji (December 23, 1997 - Radio Australia)---The Fiji Sugar Cane Growers Council says the sugar industry faces a $42 million drop in earnings this year compared to 1996.

Council chief executive Grish Maharaj also notes that Fiji’s 22,000 cane growers will earn much less and production at the country’s four sugar mills will be 100,000 tons less than last year.

Maharaj says a cyclone in March badly damaged some crops, which resulted in lower yields, while the current dry spell in western Fiji has also done some damage.

The 1998 season, he suggests, could be similarly affected.

Meantime, National Farmers Union General Secretary Mahendra Chaudhry says the weather is not the only problem, with inefficiencies at sugar mills and unreliable cane trains also causing major sugar production difficulties.

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