Farmers excel

FIJIAN sugarcane farmers only signed up for FairTrade certification a few years ago but are progressing better than some of their most experienced counterparts in bigger countries, says FairTrade Australia and New Zealand’s producer relations officer Sandra Mendez.

“Fiji is one of the country’s in the Pacific that receives higher premiums from FairTrade buyers, compared to other Pacific countries and others beyond,” she said at a governance workshop for canefarmers in Korovuto, Nadi, yesterday.

“They’ve been growing really well and making good progress.

“It is not easy, they are quite new to the FairTrade system and are newer when compared to some co-operatives that have been there for 10 or 15 years.”

She noted the local capacity to produce the high, global demand for sugar has been backed by the country’s inclusion among the African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar-producing nations and special privileges enjoyed through the European Union markets.

The Labasa Cane Producers Association was the first local organisation to receive FairTrade certification and was eventually joined by counterpart bodies in Rarawai, Ba and Lautoka.

“The three organisations are very young organisations. They have managed to set up, get certified and they are growing but have some things they need to address.

“Some relate to production in the farm — they need to build capacity at farm level and produce better quality cane so they can have more sugar at the end of the process.”

Ms Mendez said some also needed to strengthen internal governance and be more business savvy.

“It doesn’t mean they’re bad associations, it means they’re young and are growing.”