22 Jul 2003

Fiji says Australia threatens its sugar industry

7:46 am on 22 July 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says Australia is spearheading a very real threat to Fiji's sugar industry through a challenge of the European Union's preferential sugar prices.

The Fiji Times reports that Mr Qarase made the comment at the opening of the African Caribbean and Pacific ministerial conference on sugar near Sigatoka.

He says the challenge posed by Australia and Brazil, joined by Thailand, is against the spirit and letter of the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Qarase says the ACP nations have been completely ignored by the countries launching the challenge at the WTO.

The mauritius minister for sugar, the only ACP country selling more sugar to the EU than Fiji, says they are trying to reduce their production costs but there is a limit they can reach.

Pravind Jagnauth, who is chairing the conference, says small ACP countries will never be able to bring down their costs to the level of the big producers like Australia and Brazil and the world must understand that.