Since 2006 the European Union has allocated FJ$136 million to support the sugar sector in Fiji. Of these, FJ$11.5 million will be invested in research. Research in sugar is considered as one of the main factors to ensure a successful rebound of the sugar industry, for example by improving cane varieties.
Since 2006 the European Union has supported the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF) in its multi-annual research programmes that directly benefit sugar cane growers. By the end of 2013 the overall EU contribution to SRIF will reach F$11.5 million.
The future of the Fijian sugar industry is heavily dependent on the introduction of new high yielding and disease-free cane varieties. This will enable the sugar industry in Fiji to become more productive and simultaneously improve the livelihood of farmers.
An important outcome of the European Union funded research will be the development of a seed multiplication system in Fiji. The aim is to have sufficient quantities of cane field replanted with improved and certified varieties by 2016, at a pace of 4,000 Ha/year.
The current political situation has obliged the European Union to modify – in some cases limit – direct development cooperation with Fiji’s government. However, being a firm believer in the potential of Fiji’s sugar industry, the European Union has continued to support the sugar industry in various alternative ways.
From 2006 to 2013 the European Union has allocated a total of FJ$136 million to Fiji under the so-called “Accompanying Measures for Sugar” programme. The necessary reforms in the Fiji sugar industry will inevitably lead to significant redundancy among cane farmers. The objectives of the funding from the European Union are two-fold; to assist the development of a viable sugar industry for those who will remain in the sector and to support the population adversely affected by the decline in sugar related employment opportunities.
The funding also aims to provide key services to the agriculture sector, to support horticulture, food crops and to improve the livelihood of sugar cane farming communities. Apart from improved cane crops, tangible results of the European Union support to the sugar industry include the setting up of Fair-trade associations, which have generated a 25% revenue increase for farmers; social measures to cushion the impacts of necessary reforms, such as the Technical and Vocational Education and Training program for 5000 persons; social housing for 400 households; access to microfinance for farmers and 200 micro-projects.
It is estimated that some 15,000 farmers and their dependents, i.e, a total population of 50,000 people, benefit directly from European Union support. Numerous conferences, workshops and other meetings have also been sponsored by the European Union. The recent international Sugar Research Meeting in Namaka is the latest example.
About half of the above mentioned FJ$136 million will be committed this year to improve 2000 km of sugar cane access roads, to upgrade fields drainage, to counter land erosion through reforestation of 6000 Ha and to provide more opportunities to the population depending on sugar cane farming through an expansion of the vocational training programme for another 1000 persons.
The EU has signed four contracts with the Research Institute (SRIF) between 2007 and 2013 totalling a bit less than F$11.5 mil. This support has enabled to move the main office and build two regional field stations, to train staff locally and overseas in new research techniques, to conduct various field and farm experiments and disseminate advisory services for intercropping, seed cane planting, pest, weed and fertiliser management. From 2011 to 2013 EU support focussed on applied research in breeding and the promotion SRIF’s financial sustainability as an independent research agency. This support is already starting to produce the first results on the ground. Further improvements are expected in the next few years, as research always takes some time before being translated into profit for the farmers.