Sugar still relevant to economy, says acting PM

THE sugarcane industry remains relevant to the national economy despite the challenges it continues to face, says Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Responding to questions from the media in Lautoka after a meeting with European Union officials on Thursday, he said while diversifying into other products was encouraged among growers, the exercise was not being done at the expense of the sugarcane industry.

“I don’t think it’s right to take a dichotomous approach, it should not be either or,” he said.

“So you can actually do sugarcane farming and other types of farming at the same time.

“There’s a lot of potential in the industry and we need to view the industry as something more than just doing one product.

“There’s a multiplicity of products that can come out of cane and that’s why we don’t call it the sugar industry anymore, we refer to it as the sugarcane industry.

“And we do have canefarmers doing organic farming of other crops. So it’s not a question of we should abandon sugar or we have to give up sugar to do well in other areas of agriculture.

“There’s enough arable land available and there’s also awareness through programs such as the EU’s AMSP (Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol) and other projects through the Agriculture Ministry where people can have a multiplicity of farming products.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum met EU Ambassador to the Pacific Andrew Jacobs and representatives from various agencies who are implementing EU funded projects worth $130 million, designed to improve skills and provide diversification to sugar industry personnel.

The AMSP was established to mitigate the expected impact on the sugar industry when preferential quota access into the EU ends in October next year.

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