PRIME Minister and Minister for Sugar Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has called on the European Union to take heed of the impacts that the abolition of EU sugar production quotas would have on ACP member countries.
He made the call as he opened the 13th African Caribbean Pacific sugar ministerial conference in Sigatoka yesterday.
Commodore Bainimarama said because a large portion of the population in Fiji relied on the sugar industry, as was the case with other ACP member states, the importance of sugar to Fiji and the ACP could not be ignored.
"For many of us, sugar cane is not just some incidental crop that can be easily replaced," he said.
"It is a primary agricultural export at the very core of our economies and a principal source (of) income for huge segments of our populations, in Fiji's case, 200,000 people or more than 20 per cent of all Fijians.
"What we want is for our people to benefit from their own sweat and toil by gaining fair and reasonable access to global markets and fair prices."
He added that a unilateral decision by the EU to reduce market access by 2014 and end EU quotas for ACP suppliers by 2017 could spell economic disaster for many countries.
"Today our economy is more diversified and sophisticated, but sugar cane is still a significant industry. So for Fiji and many other ACP countries, a healthy market for our sugar spells a healthy economy and higher living standards, while a poor market spells the opposite.
"As you know, the global market environment for sugar has not been healthy. It has been characterised by higher production and lower prices and has severely tested us in recent years."