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By MAIKA BOLATIKI
The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) was never consulted on the European contribution worth $67.3m to the Secretariat of the Pacific Commission (SPC) in Suva to help support Fiji’s sugar sector.
FSC executive chairman, Mr Abdul Khan told the Fiji Sun that they were not consulted on the agreement signed by EU and SPC.
“No, we were not consulted on this,” Mr Khan told the Fiji.
At the presentation SPC’s assistant director land resources division, Inoke Ratukalou said that Fiji’s sugar production has fallen from a peak of 341,000mt in 2000 to less than half of that figure today, subsequently; it is likely than 20% of the land presently used for cane production, in particular on steep slopes with poor and shallow soils, is expected to be released for other uses.
“This is equivalent to around 5000 farmers leaving the industry , on top of the another 5000 farmers that have left the industry since 2000, furthermore we have farms established on flood plains and steep slopes which are faced with endemic threats from flooding and soils erosion, whose viability need to reassessed,” Mr Ratukalou said.
When asked to comment on the information relayed by Mr Ratukalou, Mr Khan said – “Sorry I am unable to comment on Ratukalou’s comments since I do not know the source of his information.”
This funding is aimed to help Fijian farmers diversify their income from cane and will help them seize new opportunities.
European Commission director Dirk Meganck said EU’s bilateral assistance to Fiji was suspended in December 2006.
“While we are hopeful that the conditions will be fulfilled to resume full cooperation, we continue to care about the social situation of the vulnerable populations and particularly those in the rural areas directly dependent on the sugar production. We are therefore mobilising funding for social mitigation programmes implemented by non-governmental and international organisations.”
The Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said it would have been better if the Sugar Industry was consulted on this funding.