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By Robert Matau

SUVA, Fiji (May 20, 1998 - Daily Post/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has announced that farmers -- including non-sugar farmers -- adversely affected by the prolonged drought will receive relief assistance, the Daily Post reports.

He also announced yesterday that government would assist cane growers with a cane crop rehabilitation program where it would provide an $F 11 million loan ($US 5.63) to the Sugar Cane Growers Fund.

This will help the fund produce the $F 38 million ($US 19.36) needed for rehabilitation.

The proposal drew wide criticism from Leader of the Opposition Jai Ram Reddy and cane growers associations.

Mr. Rabuka said he was responding to calls for urgent relief assistance to victims of the prolonged drought in western Viti Levu and northern Vanua Levu.

"Attention has also been drawn to the very serious plight of farmers in the cane growing belt who have lost their total production or much of their cane this year," Mr. Rabuka said.

"As I have said, government will not shirk from its responsibility."

Mr. Rabuka said government noted that the amount needed by the sugar industry for crop rehabilitation was about $F 38.4 million ($US 19.66).

Mr. Reddy said he was "frankly" disappointed with the rehabilitation proposal as government was telling the growers to rehabilitate [themselves].

Title -- 1373 ECONOMY: Fiji plans help for farmers Date -- 20 May 1998 Byline -- Robert Matau Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Daily Post (Fiji), 20/5/98 Copyright -- Daily Post Status – Abridged

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