7 Apr 2003

Other crops could be more lucrative says a Fiji sugar industry leader

4:23 pm on 7 April 2003

Fiji's Cane Growers Council says proposals by the Asian Development Bank to build up root crop industries as an alternative to sugar could yield 30 million dollars in revenue.

The council's chairman, Jaganath Sami says early indications show that there is a strong market for crops such as ginger, kasava and vegetables.

The ADB's proposal comes amid the restructuring of Fiji's ailing sugar industry which is led by the European Union.

Mr Sami says thousand of farmers will be axed under the restructuring because of their small crop yield and high overhead costs if sugar is sold at world market prices.

Currently under the Sugar protocol with the EU, Fiji is able to sell sugar at around three times the world market price.

However, the protocol expires in 2007.

He says root crop earnings for small cane farms could exceed those from sugar.

"We have got some 9-thousand farmers right now who are producing below 20 tonnes per hectare, but because of the unavailability of a market for other crops..... these farmers are basically tenants that went into cane.... there is a huge scope into producing root crops and vegetables, there's a market for about 30 million dollars."

Mr Sami says earlier reports that the ADB had proposed growing Indian hemp are incorrect because of Fiji laws which prohibit the cultivation of marijuana.