MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR FIJI AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM SUSPENDED

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 22, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Fiji’s controversial Commodity Development Fund (CDF), a multi-million-dollar project set up by the former Rabuka Government to jump start the agricultural sector, has been suspended.

Agriculture Minister Poseci Bune made the announcement after meeting with senior ministry officials earlier this week.

"No new program will be implemented, but projects which have already received funding would be allowed to continue" Bune said.

CDF was set up in 1997, in an attempt by the Government to boost the level of agricultural exports and help farmers diversify into other crops. The Government set aside F$ 98 million (US$ 49 million) for the project over four years, ending this year.

Bune said his ministry is hoping to meet with the Auditor General to discuss the 1997 and 1998 audit report of CDF funds.

"The reason for freezing of all new projects is because we would like to meet with the Auditor General and see ways in which the usage of the money for this program can be maximized, according to the purpose it was set up for," Bune said.

He said the Ministry would also like to address the weaknesses in management of CDF as highlighted in the audit report, which is yet to be presented to Parliament.

The audit report severely criticized how the agriculture ministry prioritized projects funded under CDF.

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