21 Aug 2007

EU sugar aid for Fiji in jeopardy

7:05 am on 21 August 2007

A new report says Fiji will not receive any European Union money for its ailing sugar industry this year and must show credible steps towards an election before it receives any next year.

The EU's programme coordinator for the sugar sector, Xavier Conton-Lamousse, said last week that about 5-million US dollars would be channelled into the Fiji sugar industry, with the first funds to be released within two months.

But a fresh statement from the SU says, "Fiji will be informed that the 2007 sugar allocation will be zero, and the 2008 sugar allocation will become available subject to evidence of credible and timely preparation for elections in accordance with agreed commitments."

The statement further says that "the 2009 sugar allocation will become available subject to a legitimate government being in place."

The Fiji Cane Growers Association general secretary, Bala Dass, has told local TV that the interim sugar minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, should come clean and tell farmers that the 2007 EU sugar funding is not forthcoming.

Mr Dass says the only way forward for cane farmers is for the interim government to look for money elsewhere.

The EU Office in Suva had earlier said that Fiji stands to lose 165-million US dollars from the EU unless it returns to the rule of law and democratic principles by 2009.