THE European Union will roll out a $5million program designed to assist sugarcane farmers in the country diversify into other cash crops and in the process improve their livelihoods.
The program, implemented through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and expected to be over three and a half years, is also designed to assist those that have left sugarcane farming and those that occupy agricultural land outside of the cane belt area.
SPC's land resources division director, Inoke Ratukalou, outlined how the Improving Key Services to Agriculture Fiji (IKSA) project would work.
"The project will develop new opportunities in horticultural and sugar markets through research and the provision of assistance to farmers to venture into horticultural crops through improved access to agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, seeds and assistance with land preparation, as well as technical assistance on production and marketing," he said.
"Our intention is to assist cane producers supplement their income by utilising land that is under-utilised, as well as farmers who are no longer growing cane and other farmers who live and farm in the periphery of the cane belt.
"We have often seen that not all land is used for cane, so we encourage farmers to consider growing economical crops that will generate income for them."
He said the target beneficiaries were the 200,000 Fijians living in the sugarcane belt's five provinces, especially those whose livelihoods relied entirely or partly on sugarcane farming.