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Ageing cane growers

79pc of sugar industry’s farmers above 50 years, says Karan

Office of the Prime Minister and Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Yogesh Karan (left) launches the SCGF new loan scheme with Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere in Labasa this week. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

SEVENTY-NINE per cent of the sugar industry’s active growers are above the age of 50, says Sugar Ministry permanent secretary Yogesh Karan.He made the remark while officiating at the launch of the Sugar Cane Growers Fund new loan initiative called “Farm Purchase Loan Product”.Mr Karan said lack of interest from the young generation towards cane farming was the main reason for the high percentage of aged farmers.“Two major contributors to declining interest from our young generation are education and employment opportunities that are now available in other sectors such as tourism and retail industries,” he said.“Because of this, many of our young people have chosen to work in other sectors and not the sugar sector.“To address the issue of ageing farmers and declining interest of younger generations to venture into sugarcane farming, the ministry introduced the New Farmers Assistance Grant (NFAG) in 2017 to entice new and young farmers into the sugar industry.“Under the NFAG scheme, the ministry provides grants to new farmers to meet the lease acquisition costs and farm establishment costs, providing free fertiliser, weedicides and planting grant for a maximum of five acres for a year.”Mr Karan said since the inception of NFAG, the ministry had assisted 209 new farmers acquire leases and establish farms.Of the 209 new growers, Mr Karan said 173 were male while 29 were female, including seven joint husband and wife farmers.“I have noted that 115 out of 209 farmers were from the North while 94 were from the Western Division.”

A cane­farmer raises his concerns at a ta­lanoa session.
Sugarcane farmer Su­n­ish Ku­mar, 28, speaks at a ta­lanoa session.
Sugarcane farmer Su­n­ish Ku­mar, 28, speaks at a ta­lanoa session.

The Fiji Times 14 Mar 2020 By LUKE RAWALAI