12 May 2008

New deal for Fiji's sugar industry

5:42 am on 12 May 2008

Fiji's dying sugar industry has been injected with some hope by the European Union which has agreed to a billion dollar deal with the interim regime.

"The Fiji Times reports that the contract entails the supply of raw sugar as a preferential import into the EU market over the next seven years."

The deal ends in September 30 2015 and is expected to be worth $425million.

It was brokered by the traditional European buyers Tate & Lyle.

The conclusion of an earlier EU preferential prices deal and the non-renewal of the majority of expiring sugarcane farm leases saw the deterioration of the industry to a level never witnessed before.

It has also seen an exodus of thousands of families who have known nothing but sugarcane farming for decades, to urban areas in search of alternative income sources.

The interim Finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has urged stakeholders to play their respective roles diligently to ensure contractual obligations are met.

Mr Chaudhry has actively pursued the industry's revival while most wrote it off as an industry; he initiated a review of the sector last year by experts from India.

The industry also represents Chaudhry's political support-base.