SUGARCANE farmers who have had their leases extended for another 30 years under a government-driven initiative to entice growers back into the sugar industry have now been given further incentive to plant more cane.
The Sugar Cane Growers Fund (SCGF) announced earlier this month a reduction in interest on loans taken out to secure the new leases.
SCGF chief executive officer Sada Sivan said the decision was made at a board meeting held on January 13.
"We have reduced interest on these loans from 6 per cent to 4 per cent per annum.
"This will give cane growers an opportunity to use the savings for other purposes.
"So far we have paid out $14 million in loans to farmers that have had their leases extended and we expect to pay out even more as more growers receive their extensions," he said.
Sugar industry stakeholders had noticed a slow uptake on an interest free loan designed to entice growers to increase production.
Investigations by the Sugar Cane Growers Council revealed that many farmers were hesitant to take loans under the interest-free Cane Development Revolving Fund because of the imminent expiry of leases.
In response, government through the Sugar Ministry negotiated a 30 year extension on leases with the iTaukei Land Trust Board and waived the $900 lease surrender fee normally charged in the process.