Difficult year ahead for Fiji sugar industry
The sugar industry in Fiji is set for a difficult year of recovery in the wake of cyclone Winston, with the industry as a whole looking at a loss of about US $60 million.
The sugar industry in Fiji is set for a difficult year of recovery in the wake of cyclone Winston, with the industry as a whole looking at a loss of about $US60 million.
That's according to the Fiji Sugar Corporation, which says about 50 percent of the sugar crop on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, has been destroyed - though some farmers have lost much more than others.
Leilani Momoisea reports:
The initial focus for the Fiji Sugar Corporation has been to provide critical assistance, like food, clothing, and shelter. The chair of the Lautoka Cane Producers Association, Parbindra Singh, says farmers are still at the beginning of recovery.
PARBINDRA SINGH: At the moment, they are focussing on rebuilding their houses and other things. They haven't started the replanting. Probably after two weeks or three weeks time definitely they have to start replanting.
The National Farmers Union President Surendra Lal says the farmers on Vanua Levu are fortunate to have not had their crops badly hit. But he says that's about where the good news ends.
SURENDRA LAL: 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.
Parbindra Singh however says he feels the government has been providing good assistance, and will be making grants and interest free loans available. He says on Viti Levu, farmers in Ba and Lautoka, are likely to be able to harvest 50 to 60 percent of the crop. But he says in Rakiraki and Tavua, some farmers have nothing left.
PARBINDRA SINGH: Some farmers have lost everything, every crop, like they wouldn't be able to harvest even a few of them. Maybe some are lucky who could be able to harvest two percent, or five percent, or 10 percent.
The executive chair of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, Abdul Khan, says because production volumes are expected to be cut in half this year, the amount of cash-flow available will be significantly lower, especially in rural areas. But he says even though one of the sugar mills has been so badly damaged it's unlikely to re-open this year, farmers are being promised if they can harvest cane, it will be processed. Mr Khan says in terms of the sugar cane crop rehabilitation process, this will take some time.
ABDUL KHAN: Anything that we plant now or during this so-called planting season, we will not be able to see the benefit from that crop until at least 12 months from now. So whatever we do later on this year, in terms of planting and rehabilitating that crop, the benefit of that won't be seen until the harvesting season of 2017 going forward.
Abdul Khan says he's reasonably positive that if they can mobilise quickly, they should see a good year from 2017 onwards.
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