22 Oct 2002

Fiji government sets up committee to reform sugar industry

11:11 am on 22 October 2002

The Fiji government has set up an independent steering committee to lead the reform of the country's ailing sugar industry.

The committee is headed by a former finance minister and agriculture minister in the early Alliance governments, Charles Walker, and includes representatives from the sugar industry, farmers organisations, trade unions, the Native Lands Trust Board and the government.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says their mission will be to rescue and revive the sugar industry on which the government will spend nearly 60-million US dollars through overseas loans over the next five years.

The government will also write off 16 million dollars in loans to the Fiji Sugar Corporation and provide a one-off injection of 11 million dollars.

Mr Qarase says Fiji is under close scrutiny by the EU and financial institutions, and needs to convince international sugar buyers, financiers and aid donors that it is an efficient and relaible supplier of quality sugar.

He says Fiji can no longer rely on price subsidies and is not alone in undertaking reforms as more than ten world sugar producers, including relatively efficient growers such as Australia, are doing the same.