PERMANENT SECRETARY OPM’S SPEECH AT THE PRODUCT LAUNCHING OF SUGARCANE GROWERS FUND IN LABASA-(12-03-2020)

PERMANENT SECRETARY OPM’S SPEECH AT THE PRODUCT LAUNCHING OF SUGARCANE GROWERS FUND IN LABASA-(12-03-2020)

Turaga Na Tui Macuata, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere

Acting Commissioner Northern Mr. Uraia Rainima

Chief Executive Officer – Sugar Cane Growers Fund – Mr. Raj Sharma

Sugar Industry stakeholders – Management & staff – FSC, SCGC, SRIF, and SPFL

Board Director of SCGF – Mr. Madigibuli, CEO, Management & staff of SCGF

Invited Guest,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning, Bula Vinaka and Namaste to you all

I am honored to be here this morning to launch the new loan of the Sugar Cane Growers Fund (Fund) called “Farm Purchase Loan Product” for new farmers.

Statistics reveals that 79% of our active growers are above the age of 50 years. Lack of interest from young generations towards sugar farming from our younger generation for various reasons has resulted in such high percentage of aging farmers we have today.

Two major contributors to declining interest from our young generations are education and employment opportunities that is now available in other sectors such as tourism and retail industries.

Because of this, many of our younger generations have chosen to work in other sectors and not in the sugar sector.

To address the issue of aging farmers and declining interest of younger generations to venture into sugarcane farming, Ministry of Sugar Industry introduced New Farmers Assistance Grant in 2017 to entice new and young farmers in sugar Industry.

Under the New Farmers Assistance scheme, Ministry of Sugar Industry provides grant to new farmers to meet the lease acquisition costs and farm establishment costs. For farm establishment, Ministry provides free fertilizer, free weedicides and planting grant for maximum of 5 acres for a year.

Since the inception of New Farmers Assistance Scheme in 2017, Ministry has assisted 209 new farmers to acquire land leases and establish farm. Out of 209 new farmers assisted, 173 (83%) are male and 29 (14%) are female farmers while balance 7 (3%) joint farmers (Husband and Wife).

I have noted that 115 (55%) (out of 209 farmers) are from Northern Division while 94 (45%) farmers are from Western Division

I’m pleased to say that out of 209 already assisted, 34% were itaukei farmers. This is a positive sign for the industry as now more Itaukei farmers are being interested in doing sugar cane farming.

However, the New Farmers Assistance was limited to lease acquisition only. In this regard, a number of requests were made to Ministry of Sugar and Office of the Prime Minister to extend the New Farmers Assistance to Farm Purchase as it would allow industry to convert the unproductive sugarcane farmland to productive sugarcane farmland.

Considering its positive spill over to the Sugar industry, Ministry decided to extend the New Farmers Assistance Scheme to New Farmers and Farm purchase Assistance Scheme in August 2019.

About Farm Purchase Grant
For Farm Purchase Grant, Ministry of Sugar industry provides grant to new farmers to meet 15 % of the land acquisition cost or maximum of $10,000 (whichever is less) for the new farmers and not the full procurement costs.

For instance if farm which you intend to buy costs you $100,000 then 15% of $100,000 is $15,000. In this case, Ministry will only pay $10,000 and not $15,000. Where 15% of farm purchase cost is less than $10,000 then Ministry will only meet the 15% of farm cost and not $10,000.

About Farm Purchase Product
Fund has been assisting the Ministry of Sugar in implementing the New Farmers Assistance grant for the past two years. It has now developed a new Loan product to collate with Ministry’s Farm Purchase Grant to benefit new entrant to sugar industry. This product is the combination of loan and government grant.

While government will provide 15% grant of cost of farm purchase, Fund will finance balance of 85% through Farm Purchase loan product.

Under this product, male farmers who are above age of 35 years, Fund will provide loan at 6.5% interest rate. However, for female and male youth farmers, Fund will provide loan at 6% interest rate. This is to encourage more youth and women to buy sugarcane farms. Such Initiative of Fund also collate with National Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals (Gender Equality) of the government.

To date, Ministry has approved 34 applications pertaining to farm purchase only where Government contributed a total of $170,050 as grant to meet the 15% farm purchase cost. In addition, these farmers would also be assisted with free fertilizer ($1,823), free weedicides and cane planting grant ($3,000) for maximum of 5 acres.

This afternoon I will also be opening the new Chemistry laboratory of Sugar Research Institute in Batnikama. The Institute has a technology transfer program that disseminates information to the farmers and the focus of this program is to educate growers to adopt best management practices in order to raise cane and sugar yield on their farms. So all the institution are revamped to provide better services to the growers.

Government will continue to put lot of efforts and attention to the sugar industry with various subsidies and grants. These services have some expectation that is to increase the production and improve the livelihood of our farmers.

While Government and sugar stakeholders are doing its parts, I request all the farmers to take advantage of all assistance and help the industry to achieve 4 million tons sugarcane in near future.

I thank every one of you for attending this launch and congratulate Sugar Cane Growers Fund on launching of this new product.

Thank you very much, Dhanavad and Vinaka
Vakalevu.

End.

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