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Sugar farmers to diversify to horticulture

June 13, 2012 1:06 am

Sugar farmers who are heavily dependent on income coming from cane planting will now have a chance to diversify to horticultural crop.

This after the European Union channelled around $63m through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to help struggling sugar farmers.

Acting Director of SPC Land Resources Division – Inoke Ratukalou says they will address the land use management and sustainability challenges facing the sugar belt region.

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“It is worth noting that Fiji’s sugar sector faces numerous challenges, challenges created by the end of the sugar protocol and the price support. Fiji’s sugar production has fallen from the peak of 341 000 metric tonnes in 2000 to less than half of that figure today. The price paid to the farmers has dropped from the 24.4 Euro dollar per tonne of cane to 18.4 per tonne in 2010 harvest season.”

Ratukalou adds currently most of the land used for cane farming is not suitable and will be put to other use.

“20% of the land presently used for cane production in particularly on the steep slopes with poor and shallow soils is expected to be released for other uses. In addition we have farms established on flood plains and steep slopes which are faced with endemic threats of floods and soil erosion whose viability need to be re-assessed.”

He claims around 5000 farmers have left the industry since 2000.

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