SUGAR industry stakeholders leave for India this Saturday to discuss loan arrangements between the Export Import Bank of India and the Fiji government.
Speaking to The Fiji Times yesterday, Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said talks would be held on the undrawn balance of the $86 million loan and finding solutions to the failed mill upgrades.
"The discussions will be centred around the loan facility that was taken up to fix our mills," Lt-Col Vaniqi said. "We will also look at the undrawn amount while taking into consideration the fact that we have made some payments to see how best we can finalise this arrangement with the EXIM Bank of India."
Fiji Sugar Corporation executive chairman Abdul Khan, who will also be a part of the Fiji delegation to India, said the focus of the talks would be to bring closure to the funding facility while meeting the original objectives of the loan.
"Our main driver is to meet the primary objective and that is to fix our mills. This is a very complex issue and it is still early days yet and these discussions with the India government and EXIM Bank of India will focus on how best to resolve the issue," Mr Khan said.
Last month in an interview with this newspaper, Lt-Col Vaniqi revealed that the sugar ministry had written to the government of India requesting that the $86 million be written off or transferred to a grant. He said that unsatisfactory mill upgrades had led to gross inefficiencies, which had incurred costs to the industry running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Apart from the fact that the upgrades did not work, we lost a significant amount of revenue caused by stoppages and breakdowns which resulted in inefficient sugar production. We also had to incur an unnecessary expense of a further $123 million to upgrade the upgrade," he had said.
The Fiji Times had reported in 2010 that previous FSC chief executive officer John Prasad intended to take the Indian contractors responsible for the failed $86 million upgrade to task after consulting with a team of legal experts.
The FSC recorded an unprecedented loss of $175.1 million in 2010 preceded by losses of $36.8 million in 2009 and $19.3 million in 2008.