Fiji to bail out cyclone-affected sugarcane farmers

THE Fiji government is covering farmers' deductions and paying off loans taken from the Sugar Cane Growers Fund following Tropical Cyclone Winston.

  • Staff Reporter
  • 17 May 2017
  • 09:32
  • News
Fiji to bail out cyclone-affected sugarcane farmers Source: Bruce Southwick, AFP

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Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum made the announcement on Monday, the Fiji Times reported.
 
The bail out will total approximately $10 million Fijian, or US$4.8 million.
 
A significant portion - nearly US$3.2 million - will be used to make payments for farmers to various organisations, such as the iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Development Bank, the Lands Department and others.
 
The fourth cane payment of $10.57 per tonne this Friday would be made without any of the usual deductions.
 
The remainder will be used to pay off loans farmers had taken out directly as a result of damage caused by the cyclone. 
 
Along with immediate relief, ensuring farmers had funding available for the growing of the next crop was a government priority, according to Sayed-Khaiyum. 
 
"This is not by way of a loan, this is by way of a grant to ensure the cane farmers are able to have enough funds to be able to deploy [as] much funds as possible to the next cane season, to ensure they have enough funds for their planting and for themselves," he said.
 
While some sugarcane farmers have welcomed the assistance, others have signalled they would not benefit as they had completed their deductions in the previous cane payment.
 
Fiji Cane Growers Association Rakiraki secretary Pushp Dass said farmers were in general happy with the announcement.
 
"But it needs to be put into perspective because the $10.57 per tonne fourth cane payment was a payment due to growers as per the Master Award," he said.
 
"And after TC Winston, government had agreed to waive all rentals for all cyclone-affected areas and this was not done. So, in their view [the farmers], this is the fulfilment of a promise already made to them.
 
"And as far as the Sugar Cane Growers Fund $1000 loan after TC Winston was concerned, government had already said it would pay for it later, so this is also nothing new.
 
"All he [a farmer] can realistically do with this is buy four new tyres for his truck. What about the money he will need to entice labourers, house them and feed them. Where will that come from?"
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