Fiji’s military ruler, Frank Bainimarama, has told cane farmers to bite the bullet as the regime will not look for overseas funding to revive the sugar industry.
Radio Fiji has reported that Bainimarama's regime will work with whatever it has and go ahead with industry reforms.
He says the regime cannot do anything if the European Union does not release the $350 million grant to cane farmers.
The farmers have lost from the EU a total of $172 million in direct assistance after the 5th December 2006 coup. This money was supposed to help farmers boost sugar cane production and increase their efficiency.
Last month the EU cancelled its 2009 allocation of $70 million dollars because the regime failed to comply with the 12 commitments it made in April 2007.
When Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry was the regime’s interim finance and sugar minister, his public statements gave clear indication that the regime would renege on the EU commitments.
Ironically, Chaudhry, the then interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum went to Brussels in April 2007 and agreed to the commitments.
But during his term as interim minister, Chaudhry encouraged the regime not to abide by the commitments with statements like “EU commitments were not cast in stone” and that the regime would look for “alternative sources of funding for farmers in the absence of EU funding”.
But Bainimarama’s latest announcement shoots down Chaudhry’s earlier claim of looking for alternative sources of funding.
Meanwhile, farmers continue to suffer with the rising cost of cane production made higher by the 20 percent devaluation.
The future of the sugar industry, which was once the backbone of Fiji's eonomy for more than 100 years, is looking grim.