It is indeed a pleasure for us to have Her excellency the NZ High Commissioner, Hon Minister Reddy, and the Assistant Ministers present with us today. Hon Minister, we must congratulate you in achieving over 100 million in agricultural exports.
Today marks another historic occasion for Sugar Cane Growers Fund for partnering with– Business Link Pacific in bringing an alternative livelihood project for cane farmers.
Business Link Pacific is a project delivery unit of DT Global. The institution is fully funded by the New Zealand Government. Business link Pacific has made available $600,000.00 FJD and a further 96000 as grant to farmers under and an agreed SME scheme.
Some 13 months ago our management team under the leadership of our CEO started discussions with Business Link Pacific. This was when we were told that there were funds available for our cane farmers under an alternative livelihood scheme. The major requirement was that the recipients of this funding had to engage in complementary agricultural products as a SME venture.
This led to numerous discussions with our industry stakeholders. This included significant discussions with Ministry of Agriculture. After a number of evaluations and considering the present-day climate challenges it was agreed that the loan funding be utilized to establish ginger farming within the cane belt areas.
The process then involved seeking expressions of interest from suitable farmers to get involved in this project. We must thank the Agricultural field officers who have provided initial farm prequalification. The Agricultural Officers also made recommendations as to the areas where ginger planting was suitable. I must sincerely thank the Hon Minister Reddy at this juncture as he has personally made sure that resources were made available to fast track the project.
The selection of all farmers who have qualified under this scheme was made by the Ministry of Agriculture. This was based on the suitability of the farms for Ginger planting. This project is being trailed in Viti Levu only. So far we have received 84 applications. The total funding available under this scheme is 600K plus a 96000 grant.
I am pleased to see all the dignitaries here today. Our farmers will certainly need your further support for this project to become successful. For this venture to become successful and grow to the next level we will need:
- ongoing field extension support from Agricultural experts in this area
- infrastructure to process ginger for the best value to the farmers
- support to establish a regular market
- and finally, support to set up industry-related standards so that our products are acceptable to the international market.
Many a times ventures like these do not reach the next level as the support is lost along the way. In this instance, my SCGF team is going to be in constant touch with appropriate stakeholder bodies. The aim would be to ensure that we are able to establish a network of fully integrated planting processing and sale market. The Ministry of Agriculture will play an integral part in this entire project.
Some of the farmers here may be thinking why we are trying to support the planting of ginger in cane belt areas. I must stress that this initiative is not to dilute the aspirations of the sugar industry. It is to complement and give supplementary income to our farmers. No more than two acres of land per farm will be used for this purpose for now.
All initially mentioned all funding for the project is through Business Link Pacific. The Sugar Funds core capital is not going to be used in this project. The project will leverage off the sugar funds established business framework in the area of lending and collections.
The Fund continues in its core activity of lending within the cane farming area. This remains our core business. The fund firmly believes in bringing creative products and support via third parties to our ordinary farmers. The ultimate aim is to allow our farmers to maximize their earnings from the farm.
Our SCGF team is present here today. If any of you want to know further about our products and services, please feel free to talk to our team.
Finally, I would once again like to thank our dignitaries this morning. I wish all the best to the farmers who will be part of this pilot scheme. If you have been selected for this pilot phase, please remember that your success will create an opportunity and pathway for lot more other farmers who are eagerly waiting for an opportunity. For farmers who have not been selected please remember that there will always be an opportunity as the project grows bigger.