The general secretary of the Fiji Cane Growers Association has warned the sugar industry will collapse and die, unless alternative sources of funding is secured.
Bala Dass's comments follows the decision by the European Unin to cancel its 2009 allocation of $24 million Euro, or $70 million Fiji dollars, earmarked to assist cane farmers.
Dass blamed the interim regime, and Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of the Fiji Labour Party, who is also the general secretary of the National Farmers Union, for the demise of cane farmers and the sugar industry.
"The EU decision is not a surprise because the 2008 allocation of more than $100 million was also cancelled. So far the cane farmers of Fiji have lost more than $170 million worth of assistance from the $350 million grant allocated by the EU to rehabilitate the sugar industry by improving sugarcane crop production ad increasing the yield to 4 million tonnes of cane."
"This valuable assistance for farmers was allocated to sustain their livelihood due to withdrawal of EU preferential price of sugar or subsidies from 2010," he said.
The EU has made it clear that the grant will not be re-instated unless and until those ruling Fiji fulfill the commitments made to EU in April 2007.
Dass said his Association fears that the cane farmers could be denied the entire $350 million grant as it could be taken up by another ACP sugar producing nation, given the fact that general elections will be held after more than 5 years.
"Whether or not the EU grant is available after the elections remains to be seen but it is a certainty that the sugar industry will collapse and die in 5 year’s time unless and until alternative sources of funding is secured by those in control."
"And this painful reality cannot be ignored by anyone, including those who have been in control of the Sugar Cane Growers Council since January 2007 and have been insisting that the EU grant was secure and there was no need to rush into elections."