Fiji fears force deal with EU to save sugar industry

Viability hangs on interim EPA

Fears of the collapse of Fiji’s multi-million dollar sugar industry prompted its government late last month to opt for an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the European Union. Investigations by Islands Business magazine had shown that once Fiji’s sugar exports to the EU market are taxed, Fiji sugar will be deemed unviable which would probably lead to the collapse of the entire industry of 24,000 growers and their families as well as the hundreds more who work in the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s four sugar mills.

The ramifications of such an economic fallout will be disastrous, something the Fijian Government of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama can ill afford on the eve of its September 17 general elections. Our investigations show that Fiji’s sugar currently fetches around 400 Euro (AU$570) in the EU market. Once our current trade agreement under Lome lapses, Fiji’s sugar will automatically cop duty of 339 per tonne. This leaves Fiji with a mere 61 per tonne in revenue, rendering the entire sugar market unviable. When the magazine crosschecked these figures with Fiji Sugar industry officials, it was referred to Shaheen Ali, Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry.

Ali declined to comment saying his minister would be releasing a statement on the subject “soon.” By soon, he actually meant the next day as Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Fiji’s Trade Minister and also the Attorney General released a largely vague but carefully-worded statement through the Fiji Ministry of Information “The Bainimarama Government is taking the necessary measures to ensure that preferential market access of Fiji’s most important exports—sugar, fish,garments and processed foods to the EU will not be disrupted by a lapse in a trade agreement with the European Union,” the statement reads.

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