Agriculture continues to play significant role in Fiji’s economy and the recent Fiji Agriculture Census Report 2020 released by Ministry for Agriculture provides various impressive and fact finding figures such as:
- Majority (85.6%) are male and 14.4% are female farmers;
- Age-group 30 – 39 years making up 22.4% of the total farmers, though a little over 15.4% (12 853) of the farmers are of age 60 years or more. There are 42.7% (35,388) of farmers in the age-group of 10 to 39 years while 57.3% (47 807) are aged 40 or above;
- Overall 51.3% (42 751) of farmers have saving bank account, though the proportion of male farmers with saving bank accounts at 53.2% is significantly higher compared to female farmers at 40.0%. Out of the total 42 751 farmers who have savings accounts, 88.8% are male and 11.2% are female; and
- Overall 63.3% (52 769) of farmers have mobile phones, though the proportion of male farmers having mobile phones at 64.8% is significantly higher compared to female farmers at 54.5%. Out of the total 52 769 farmers who have mobile phones, 87.6% are male and 12.4% are female.
These are very important data for agriculture and no exception to the sugar industry. The figures provided above and how best we as the lending institution for the sugar cane farmers can capitalize and strategically align ourselves in formularization of products and services, said Chief Executive Officer of Sugar Cane Growers Fund, Mr. Raj Sharma.
Mr. Sharma said SCGF is in the process of formulating its 5 year Strategic Plan which also includes a wider pace financial of services to the sugar cane farmers including subsistence farming loans. Mr. Sharma said that they would ensure that the plan is embed with National Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals – when we talk about key goals (1) No Poverty (2) Zero Hunger (4) Quality Education (5) Gender Equality (6) Clean Water and Sanitation (8) Decent Work & Economic Growth and (13) Climate Actions as the main ones.
Mr. Sharma added that despite the challenges of COVID-19, which included stand down period of Head Office last week and staff isolation, they have ensured that normal services to the growers have been provided in granting loans and making payments. This has only happened with contingency plan with the backdrop of advanced technological system. He thanked his staff and their families for all the work and contributions during these tough times from January to 31st July 2021, SCGF approved 1242 applications valued $4.558m (81% of the target). He also advised that they are talking to few agencies with special agricultural grant /loan based projects for the farmers. SCGF is also concluding the SCGF App test to be rolled out end of the month. We at SCGF are fully commitment for the betterment of the growers and the industry. We had meeting with FSC as to how we can project and work together in increasing the production in the strategically located areas. The last week’s meeting with Permanent Secretary, Mr. Yogesh Karan and all the Stakeholders (CEO’s) had provided some clear roadmap on the vaccination programs and our budgetary work plans for the industry, said Mr. Sharma.