25 Sep 2003

US$25m plan to help Fji's sugar farmers

4:40 pm on 25 September 2003

Sugar farmers and cane cutters in Fiji could soon benefit from a 25 million dollar programme to help them diversify into other agricultural markets.

The Asian Development Bank's Alternative Livelihoods Development Project could begin in January if it gets the go-ahead from the bank's board of directors.

The ADB says more than thirty percent of Fiji's export earnings come from sugar and about a third of the population depends to some degree on it.

But, because the sugar industry has relied for decades on preferential prices from the European Union, it's become uncompetitive and its future is now at stake.

The ADBs Principal Country Programmes Specialist, Kunhamboo Kannan, says they will help farmers in all aspects of restructuring.

"first we will try to get an NGO to give them various ideas and prepare them, make them think, what are the things they can do and then we identify what is lacking in them, is it skill, if it's skill that is lacking in order to do certain diversified activities then we provide them training and once they are trained we also provide them with rural financial services"

The ADBs Principal Country Programmes Specialist, Kunhamboo Kannan says he's optimistic that farmers and cane cutters could make more money in other agricultural markets than they do at present producing sugar.