17 Mar 2016

Grim future predicted for Fiji farmers

12:34 pm on 17 March 2016

The looks gloomy for Fiji farmers, as they deal with damaged crops and a looming drought, according to the Fiji National Farmers Union.

This comes as sugar farmers are taking stock of a loss of about US $60 million to their industry in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation estimates about 50 percent of the sugar crop on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, has been destroyed.

Farmers are still focussing on rebuilding their homes, but will need to start replanting sugar cane within the next few weeks.

The Union's President, Surendra Lal said the northern farmers on Vanua Levu were fortunate to have not had their crops badly hit.

However he admitted that there probably wasn't any other good news.

"We have issues because of this on-coming drought, which is hanging over our head. If drought continues and it's severe we might lose our crop. So it's quite a grim future for our cane farmers."

"We are just wondering whether government has any future plans to assist cane farmers? It has yet to be seen."

A villager in the cane fields near Lautoka, Fiji

A villager in the cane fields near Lautoka, Fiji Photo: RNZI / Sally Round

The chair of the Lautoka Cane Producers Association, Parbindra Singh, however said he felt the government had been providing good assistance to the industry.

Earlier, the executive chair of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, Abdul Khan, said the industry as a whole was looking at a loss of about US $60 million, in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

He said this takes into account the crop loss, the damage to about 4,000 farmers properties, and the damage to industry infrastructure such as the sugar processing mills.

Mr Khan said their initial focus had been to provide critical assistance, like food, clothing, and safe shelter.

He said the next part of the recovery phase is a crop rehabilitation plan, and they're talking to the government and other agencies about how to achieve this.

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