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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 2) – The cost of fuel increases in Fiji by as much as FJD20 cents a litre (US 45 cents per gallon) from today - the fifth for the year.

Diesel will increase from FJ$1.40 to FJ$1.48 per litre (US$3.15 to US$3.33 per gallon); premix outboard fuel increases from $1.40 to $1.48 per litre; motor spirit increases from $1.63 to $1.83 per litre (US$3.67 to US$4.12 per gallon); and kerosene increases from $1.37 to $1.51 per litre (US$3.09 to US$3.40 per gallon).

The Prices and Incomes Board says further price increases in the coming months should be expected. Prices are reviewed every two months and this recent increase reflects average prices for August and September.

The rising cost of oil has forced the Government to focus on the exploration of developing renewable energy sources, including those from agricultural by-products.

With the help of the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the Fiji Electricity Authority, the Government has adopted an alternative plan to produce power from cane, sugar, palm oil, forest and agricultural products like copra.

Trade Minister Tomasi Vuetilovoni said this was the only way to go because the increase in international fuel prices was something beyond Fiji's control.

Mr. Vuetilovoni said the Government was embarking on a major energy investment program, which would see the production of energy from bagasse and ethanol fuel from sugar.

[PIR editor’s note: Bagasse is the refuse of sugar cane from which the juice has been extracted, and from the beginnings of the sugar industry has been the natural fuel for sugar plantation power plants.]

He said the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) was embarking on a similar program by investing in renewable energy such as wind power.

A Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has been tasked to guide the Government's plan on alternative sources of energy and fuel.

Mr. Qarase recently told the Fiji Employers Federation annual general meeting that the fuel crisis was one of the causes of the slow-down in economic growth forced by rising import bills.

"The international oil situation is a lot more serious. Latest projections suggest the price per barrel will remain in the US$60-plus area for some time. We will be lucky if it ever drops below US$50," Mr. Qarase had said.

"The FEA will be one of the central players with the Fiji Sugar Corporation, in a far-reaching alternative plan for power recently adopted by the Government.

[PIR editor’s note: The Fiji Sugar Corporation Limited was incorporated in Fiji by an Act of Parliament in 1972 and the Government of Fiji now holds 68 percent of the issued share capital. The Corporation is Fiji’s largest private sector employer, manufacturing raw sugar and molasses, and manages the Sugar Cane Research Centre.]

"We are receiving good support from the United Nations Development Program, which is putting together some of the initial documentation and projections."

The Fiji Taxi Union and Fiji Bus Operators Association are finding it hard to survive because the Government is reluctant to grant bus or taxi fare increase to meet the rising fuel prices. Fiji Bus Operators Association president Pyara Singh said the recent hike in diesel prices was the biggest increase it had ever experienced.

He said it had increased their operating costs by 40 percent.

Following the 2006 Budget on Friday, bus operators’ association executives would meet to decide on what to do next.

Taxi Union general secretary Rishi Ram was not available for comment yesterday.

November 3, 2005

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