The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) has announced a final sugar cane payment to all sugar cane farmers at $9.59 per tonne, bringing the total sugar cane payment for 2016 to $82.00, a nearly 7% increase over the total 2015 payment.
The final sugar cane payment will be paid out in two instalments, with a $6.54 payment before Diwali on Tuesday, 17 October 2017 and a $3.05 payment to be paid out in January of next year prior to the commencement of the 2018 school year.
The final sugar cane payment of $9.59 is composed of a $0.44 wash-up payment and a $9.15 top-up from Government in recognition of the ongoing difficulties faced by sugar cane farmers due to the massive damage caused by Category 5 Cyclone Winston.
Sugar cane production dropped to an all-time low in 2016 of 1,387,243 tonnes due to the widespread devastation caused by Cyclone Winston. As a result sugar production also dropped to 139,501 tonnes due to low and poor quality sugar cane supply. In response, Government not only took swift measures to provide relief in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, but continued support to sugar cane farmers throughout the 2016 crushing season.
In addition Government also provided a package of assistance including but not limited to meeting the obligations of farmers in respect of loan repayments and land rentals.
In the 2017-2018 National Budget, the Fijian Government has also set aside an unprecedented $60 million towards the sugar cane industry to assist with sugar cane development, subsidise fertiliser and weedicide, maintain cane access roads, cover cartage costs, assist new farmers to enter the industry and boost the uptake of mechanisation in sugar cane farms.
Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama said the top-up to the final sugar cane payment was part of a larger programme of assistance and reform to expand the critical role of the sugar cane industry in growing the Fijian economy.
“Around 200,000 Fijians rely on the health of our sugar cane industry – it is a critical source of income and way of life in many regions across our nation. Cyclone Winston seriously damaged our sugar cane industry and in the wake of the devastation many sugar cane farmers and their families were unsure what the future held. But I made a promise to our sugar cane farmers that our commitment to this industry would remain unwavering. Not only during our recovery from Winston, but a larger promise; whether in our work to adapt to our changing climate or a changing global market, my Government will always support our sugar cane farmers and always fight for their best interests. We must ensure that assistance to sugar cane farmers are provided in a tangible and sustainable manner with the view to reducing their cost of production to not only give them bigger profit margins but to also help increase their production,” said the Prime Minister.