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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 5) – A national strategy will be drawn up to help the Fiji sugar industry adapt to the social impact of lower revenue because of the planned phasing out of preferential sugar prices in 2007.

The decision to draw up the strategy was made after a meeting between Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, Fiji sugar industry stakeholders and the European Union, led by its Pacific delegation head, Roberto Rudolfi.

Fiji presently sells the majority of its sugar to the EU at prices significantly higher than world market prices through a Sugar Protocol between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations.

The Government is now finalising terms of reference for drafting the adaptation strategy with the help of industry stakeholders.

It is hoped the strategy will be in place as early as next year.

It will be implemented along with the EU's promise to provide eight years of support to the local industry because of changes to sugar prices.

Fiji will benefit from about FJ$40million which is expected to be provided by the EU to 18 sugar protocol countries affected by the fall in sugar prices.

The EU promised more substantial funds would be made available after the eight-year period expires.

"Specific country allocation will depend on the importance of sugar exports to the EU in the economy of the country in question and to the impact of the reform in the sugar sector of each country," an EU statement said.

"Support to Fiji is expected to go not just to increasing the competitiveness of its sugar sector, however, it could be used to promote economic diversification of sugar dependent areas or to address the broader social impacts of lower revenues."

Dr Rudolfi said reforms to the sugar price protocol were being debated by the 25 EU-member states and an agreement is expected at the end of the year.

September 6, 2005

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