Cyclones cost the sugar industry $200 million

Cyclones have cost the Fijian sugar industry more than $200 million since 2016, Prime Minister and Sugar Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said.

Speaking at the International Sugar Organization’s virtual council meeting in Lautoka on Tuesday, he said sugar cane production had fallen by a third following cyclones that hit Fiji in 2016 and 2020.

“This was mainly due to crop losses and damage to mills and other infrastructure,” the prime minister said.

“As well as spending millions to rehabilitate and build industry resilience, the Fijian government heavily subsidizes the costs of inputs like fertilizer, invests heavily in industry-related research, including the production of resilient crops.

“It also provides grants and subsidies and funds investment programs aimed at increasing the planting and production of sugar cane, improving and increasing the rate of mechanization.”

The Prime Minister said sustainability was only possible through sustained profits for sugar cane growers.

He said resilience was not just a way to achieve that goal, it was the only way that would ensure the sustainability of the industry in this century.

“Each Member State faces unique challenges. But our goal of global resilience is shared.

“We can work together to design collective strategies that harness our resources and ingenuity to solve the most pressing challenges facing this industry globally.

“More drought-tolerant sugar cane varieties, for example, mean as much in the drier parts of Fiji’s ‘hot west’ as they do in the drier growing areas of Thailand and other countries that face similar challenges brought on by global warming.

Rachel J. Bradford