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Fund pulls through pandemic

Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, the Sugar Cane Growers Fund managed to carry out its core business of providing loans to farmers, says CEO Raj Sharma.

“We faced challenges mostly during the months of April and May this year when the pandemic was at its peak,” he said.”

“The outbreak limited our access to the canegrowers on a faceto-face basis.

“It hampered our services to farmers because the limitations extended to our counterparts in the documentation section at the Registrar of Titles office in Suva.

“The subsequent lockdowns denied the farmers ability to make loan applications in person since there were no bus services also.

“Transportation to towns, where our offices are located, became an issue for growers.

“There was a cane payment in May, which resulted in a small number of successful loan applications for that particular month, however, it was more need-based”.

Mr Sharma said the SCGF was well prepared for any future COVID-like scenarios.

“In terms of operations, we had orchestrated well-designed contingency plans in an effort to continue serving farmers.

“Although our head office in Lautoka was closed for two days to allow for fumigation and subsequent home isolation for staff – SCGF operations were never hugely impacted by the virus.

“This was because we had upgraded our IT system last year, which enabled all loan applications, approvals and payments to be done electronically by authorised personnel.

“We had made arrangements with our subsidiary company South Pacific Fertilizers Ltd (SPF) to ‘switch on’ the very next day and even Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) in case our head office was closed for seven or 14- days.

“If any of our district offices were closed we had planned to utilise the various FSC sector offices and even the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC) offices in the country.

“We had plans B and C in place to ensure our operations weren’t affected.”