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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 28, 1999 - PACNEWS/Fiji Times)---About 12,000 sugar cane farmers who were spared from Fiji's devastating drought last year will share about $US 30 million, the final payment for last year’s crop.

The Chief Executive of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Grish Maharaj, said farmers would get about $US 14 per ton of cane as their third and final payment.

However, about 7,000 farmers in the Tavua and Nadi districts, in the western part of the main island of Viti Levu, who lost their entire crop last year, will not be included in the payout.

About 4,000 farmers harvested less than 50 percent of their normal cane yield.

Maharaj said those who harvested last year received about $US 34 per ton as part of the first two payments.

"The final price is likely to reach $US 36 per ton after the final payment due in October. This final price has never exceeded $US 28 per ton. It’s a record breaking payment, but only 12,000 farmers will benefit,’’ he said.

The third payment is the balance of the farmers’ share of the net proceeds of the sale of sugar and molasses received up to February of this year.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation will distribute the payments this week.

The bulk of Fiji’s 250,000 tons of sugar produced last year was sold in the European Union market, which pays four times the world market price.

Maharaj said the record cane price was the result of sugar sales on the premium market and the reduced crop available.

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