FIJI CANE FARMERS SUFFER WITHOUT EU FUNDS

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$7.4 million needed for replanting

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 14, 2009) – The Sugar Cane Growers Council is trying to secure $13million [US$7.4 million] for the industry's crop replanting program.

The program was initiated by the European Union, which put it on hold following disagreement with authorities.

Under the EU's $350million [US$198 million] assistance scheme, the industry was to receive 60 million Euro [US$79.1 million] for the period 2008 to 2010.

SCGC chief executive Surendra Sharma said the council was seeking funding to assist farmers in crop planting for the new season.

"We expect the new harvesting and crushing season to begin in late May or early June but no date has been announced yet as this depends largely on the readiness of the mill and the crop," he said.

"One farmer depending, on the size of the farm, needs six to eight bags of fertiliser per acre or 15 to 18 bags per hectare is required.

"This would bring the total requirement for one season standing normally at 35,000 tonnes for the whole industry."

However, a major concern for farmers now will be the proposed increase in the price of a bag of fertiliser from $19.50 to $25 per bag. While farmers begin planting of new cane six months before harvesting season, blend A fertiliser is used for new planting fields and blend B six to eight weeks after planting.

Cane farmer Ram Prasad said if grants were provided to farmers that would ease their burden to meet other expenses and payments.

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