EXTENSIVE flooding in the Western Division in January and March this year has caused close to $21million worth of damage to the country's sugar industry.
Sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said while the cost to the industry was significant, government had worked out strategies to meet the damage bill.
"The first flood cost us $10.1million and the recent one has been put at $10.53million, which puts the total at $20.63million," Lt-Col Vaniqi said.
"While we recognise that this is a significant amount, we are able to source funds to meet this from within the industry," he said. Lt-Col Vaniqi, however, said there was expected to be a shortfall of close to $5million with government able to source $15.5million to address the damage to the industry.
"We can always reprioritise on certain areas that are not critical to cane delivery to meet the shortfall and the recent third cane payment that was made to farmers last month - where farmers received $8m illion - may have cushioned the impact of flooding this time around," said Lt-Col Vaniqi.
On the question of whether grants could be given to cane growers severely affected by the recent floods, he said more detailed assessments needed to be carried out.
"We have to really identify which growers are serious about planting cane and in furthering the industry," Lt-Col Vaniqi said. "We have learnt from past experience that some growers take advantage of natural disasters to source funding which is used for other purposes," he said.
He added that any assistance given to farmers would not be in the form of cash handouts but rather as food rations, seedlings and farming aid programs.