Fiji's dictatorship regime is now begging the European Union to release the $350 million grant the EU has withheld as assistance to cane farmers to boost their sugarcane crop.
Since the military coup of December 2006, the EU has so far cancelled allocations worth $172 million. The entire $350 million was a grant.
During a meeting between the regime and the EU in Brussels this week, the interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubabola, who accompanied the regime's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to the meeting, is reported by Fiji Television as telling EU officials that the sugar funding has serious socio-economic implications.
Fiji TV reported that Kubuabola told the EU that the reduced sugar earnings was barely sufficient to neet operational costs of industry stakeholders and the withholding of the EU grant would be detrimental for the sustainability of the sugar industry.
Kubuabola's plea for EU help contradicts the stand taken by Bainimarama as well as Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry when he was the regime's Finance and Suar Minister.
Chaudhry had made it clear that the commitments made to the EU by the regime in April 2007 were not cast in stone, meaning the regime should not hold elections by March 2009 as required by the EU.
In June this year, Bainimarama told farmers that the regime would not look for overseas funding to revive the sugar industry.
He told the farmers to bite the bullet as the regime could not do anything if the EU decided not to release the funds.
The regime's change of tune comes as the sugar indusry is encountering one of is worst seasons in history.
We had earlier reported that cane production had fallen from 3.2 million tonnes in 2006 to 2.37 million tonnes last year. And the 2009 cane crop would be around 2 million tonnes or less.
The sugar production has declined from 310,000 tonnes in 2006 to 207,000 tonnes in 2008 with production declining below 200,000 tonnes for 2009.