Call for same support for non-sugar sector

THE non-sugar agriculture sector needs the same support as sugar, says Opposition spokesperson for economy, Aseri Radrodro.

While speaking on the 2017-2018 Appropriation Bill in Parliament on Monday, Mr Radrodro said despite Government’s $400 million injection to the Fiji Sugar Corporation over the past 10 years, the industry continued to decline.

“Out of this amount, $240 million was spent on cane- growers,” he said.

“The result is appalling.

“In 2006, we had 18,636 active growers, compared to only 12,872 in 2016, and this trend will continue.

“In terms of cane crushed, it has declined from 1.38 million tonnes in 2016, compared to 3.226 million tonnes in 2006. In terms of sugar production, it declined from 310,140 tonnes in 2006 to 139,502 tonnes in 2016.”

Mr Radrodro said while the contribution to GDP of the agriculture sector had declined from 15 per cent in 2005 to about 6 per cent today, its contribution in terms of food security and employment could not be overlooked.

“It continues to provide employment opportunities, foreign exchange earnings, and remains a constant reliable source of survival for us all,” he said.

“But the budget allocation given for it does not reflect this, compared to the injection in the sugar industry.

“We note that whilst the allocation for the sugar industry is mostly capital grant and has continued to increase, the allocation for non-sugar sector, however, has remained flat for the last three years.

“This year, for example, this crucial sector only received a mere increase of about $9 million from its budget of $74 million last year.”

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