THE European Union has committed $69million to direct assistance programs for cane growers in the country.
According to Mohammed Habib, the technical manager for the Fairtrade Coordinating Unit in the country, the funds are being facilitated through his organisation, the Secretariat for the Pacific Community and through the three cane producer associations in Labasa, Lautoka and Rarawai-Penang.
"The EU has signed a Contribution Agreement with SPC for $1m to support the capacity building of farmers' associations and to support Farm Advisory Services in the sugar and agricultural sector," he said.
"Under this program, members of the three cane producer associations are assisted through Farmer Training Programs in all sectors, demonstration farm set-ups and field information days are organised.
"Allocations are also made for recruitment of technical assistants and experts, in collaboration with key sugarcane stakeholders."
Mr Habib said the $69m was committed to improving sugarcane access roads, field drainage conditions, address the land erosion issue through reforestation and give more opportunities to sugarcane dependent populations with an expansion of the vocational training program.
"Further, the EU is providing an additional 1million euros in grants to the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji to increase yields through propagation of new varieties, research and extension support, new equipment and for capacity building of research staff."