21 Aug 2007

Fears little of EU aid support for Fiji sugar industry will go to help farmers diversify

7:58 pm on 21 August 2007

The General Secretary of the Fiji Cane Growers Association, Bala Dass, says farmers will not get enough of the next slice of European Union funds.

It's hoped that money agreed to in 2006 to help the struggling sugar industry will become available later this year.

Mr Dass says part of that funding is to help growers on low production farms to diversify out of growing cane.

But he says less than half will go to helping farmers and those to be helped will be chosen by the Fiji Sugar Corporation:

"What my association is concerned is that what will happen to those farmers who will not be viable, who will not be able to do sugar cane farming after price reductions. They will have to leave, they will have to survive, they will have to have three times meal, they will have to send their children to school so they need money and it is the responsibility of the government of the day to look after them."

Mr Dass says he does not think the interim government is doing enough to qualify for the next planned allocations of EU funding.

He believes scant attention is being paid to reaching those milestones towards democracy agreed to at talks earlier this year in Brussels.