FARMERS TO BUY SHARES IN FIJI SUGAR CORPORATION

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 20, 1999 - PACNEWS/Fiji Times)---Fiji’s 22,000 sugar cane growers are ready to buy 17 percent of the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s (FSC) shares from the Government.

The purchase would be made from a 50-cent a ton deduction from their harvest payments.

At a meeting of the Sugar Cane Growers Council last week, the councilors agreed to set up a new company, Cane Growers Investments. Ltd. (CGIL). It is expected to help to revive the declining sugar industry by allowing growers a more active role in policy formulation.

Council Chief Executive Girish Maharaj said the growers would eventually buy out all Government shares and ensure that the mills became profitable.

The Fiji Government is the majority shareholder and currently owns 67 percent of the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s shares.

Maharaj said the new company would be registered with the Stock Exchange in the capital, Suva.

He said a proposal letter to buy shares had been written to the Finance Minister, Jim Ah Koy, and the Council was ready to finalize the deal.

"Each grower would be issued a share certificate and would take part in the policy making of the FSC, making it a grower-oriented organization," Maharaj said.

He said there was no reason why the Government should continue running the country’s four sugar mills when its services had deteriorated over the years. The company incurred $F 10.8 million (US$ 5.5million) in losses last year.

The councilors hope CGIL will start earning returns by the year 2001 and will be established as an independent body with a separate office from the Sugar Cane Growers Council.

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