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SUVA, Fiji (July 13, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Fiji's drought-affected sugar cane farmers have ended their six-week harvest boycott after the government agreed to their demands for financial assistance.

The lifting of the boycott will allow the country's four mills, closed for more than a month, to begin this season's operation.

With nearly 50 per cent of the country's 22-thousand farmers losing their entire crop due to an El Niño drought, farmers led by the National Farmers Union pushed for government cash assistance to meet family needs and crop rehabilitation.

The government initially resisted their demands, but after it was faced with idle mills assistance was granted.

For the first time, Fiji has been forced to import its domestic sugar requirements, about 32-thousand tons, to meet consumption needs this year.

It also has been forced to cancel export commitments of more than 100-thousand tons of sugar this year to Japan, Malaysia and the Pacific Islands.



SUVA, Fiji (July 8, 1998 - PACNEWS/Tuqiri)---Fiji will lose over $100 million ($US 49 million) in sugar industry earnings due to the expected shortfall in cane and sugar production this year, said Acting Minister for Agriculture Lagisoa Delana while introducing a bill to amend the Sugar Fund Authority Act in the Lower House.

If passed, the bill will allow the release of about $27 million ($US 13 million) for crop rehabilitation, Island Networks Corporation reports.

Delana says it is estimated that the 1998 crop will be 2.5 million tons of cane, but the situation could worsen. He said production will continue to decline if the drought persists and could result in a further decrease in revenue.

Meanwhile, Labor leader Mahendra Chaudhry says crop rehabilitation for sugarcane farmers affected by the drought is presently not a priority. Referring to the bill, Chaudhry says the exercise will only be possible if Fiji has favorable weather. He said what is more important to farmers now is their ability to survive over the next 15 to 18 months because statistics indicate that thousands of farmers would be in dire straits.



SUVA, Fiji (July 9, 1998 - PACNEWS/Tuqiri)---Sugar prices in retail shops in Fiji will not change from last year's even though it is being imported from Australia and Thailand.

Fiji Sugar Marketing's Managing Director, John May, says even though it is costing the government more to import sugar, the extra cost will not be passed on to consumers, Island Networks Corporation reports.

May says Fiji Sugar Marketing buys sugar at the world market price, about $US 800 per ton, and it will land in Fiji at a cost higher than if it were made locally, but he said the industry has assured the government that sugar will be sold to merchants at the same price as last year.

So far the government has imported 600 tons of sugar from Australia. More is expected from Australia and Thailand next week.

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