FIFTEEN thousand cane producers received $6.3million from the sale of 60,000 tonnes of sugar produced under Fairtrade Certification protocol.
Fairtrade is a global certification organisation that encourages growers to plant and harvest cane ethically according to strict guidelines, which include the non-use of child labour and chemical fertilisers.
In return, growers receive a premium price for their sugar, which is in addition to the sugar price that the Fiji Sugar Corporation negotiates for growers in a particular area.
However, funds derived from Fairtrade sugar are not directly passed on to growers but used to increase sugarcane productivity and aid social, education or health development.
To be eligible for Fairtrade certification, cane growers are also required to form democratic organisations or cane producer associations as per the prescribed criteria.
Fairtrade Coordination Unit project coordinator based in Lautoka, Mohammed Habib said following the Labasa Cane Producers Association's (LCPA) successful accreditation in 2010, two organisations on Viti Levu also managed to satisfy the stringent fairtrade guidelines and had also been certified.
"The Lautoka Cane Producers Association and Rarawai and Penang Cane Producers Associations have been established with European Union assistance. This certification has been facilitated through technical assistance from the EU supported Fairtrade Co-ordination Unit (FCU) based in Lautoka under the EU Accompanying Measures for the Sugar Protocol programme (EUAMSP)," Mr Habib said.
"The roll-out program in Viti Levu was at the request of cane growers who also wished to reap the benefits of Fairtrade," he said.
"Fairtrade is an alternative trading system which allows for organisational development through consensus among fellow producers and encourages empowerment, social and community development and facilitates poverty alleviation.
"The FCU has provided the relevant technical assistance and support to the Lautoka Cane Producers Association and the Rarawai and Penang Cane Producers Association for this significant achievement.
"Sugar refiner Tate and Lyle has agreed to buy 60,000 tonnes of Fairtrade sugar from Fiji from their 2012 crop. As the Fairtrade project manager and coordinator, I thank the EU, government and sugar industry stakeholders for their support of this project," he said.
Mr Habib revealed that the LCPA had been receiving premiums annually since it was established in 2010.
Last year, he said the association agreed to allocate $2.2m for cane productivity programs, $1.3m for environmentally sustainable farming and $250,000 for community development projects across Vanua Levu.
These projects included a footbridge, Irish crossing, kindergarten, computers and teaching aids for rural schools in cane belt areas.
Of the 15,000 members in the three cane producers' organisations in the country, 4000 are in Labasa and 11,000 in the Lautoka, Rarawai and Penang mill areas.