EU assistance – Sugar industry to benefit the most

THE sugar industry is poised to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Fiji’s return to democratic rule with the European Union hinting at the possibility of direct financial assistance to the industry through the Ministry of Sugar.

The EU’s head of delegation for the Pacific, Ambassador Andrew Jacobs, said because of the importance of the industry and the critical role it played in the national economy, the amount of financial aid would depend on the outcome of talks with the government.

Whether the assistance will include the $350million aid package to rehabilitate the sugar industry that was suspended after the military takeover in 2006 is yet to be determined.

However, Mr Jacobs did say “additional funds” could be allocated to the sugar sector.

“The return of democracy to Fiji should mean additional assistance to the sugar industry,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said this would also allow the EU to work directly with the government and its agencies.

“The current EU assistance to the sugar cane-dependent population is delivered through four different programs and is implemented by Fijian-based NGOs and international organisations.

“The assistance will continue to be implemented under their current framework and should be completed by 2018.”

The EU says it has allocated 50million euro ($F120m) in assistance to farmers in cane belt areas in its accompanying measures for the sugar protocol program.

These funds were used for projects facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprise and Development, Sugar Research Institute of Fiji and Fairtrade.

There are 14,000 canefarmers in the country and about 200,000 people depend on the industry for their livelihood.