The Fiji Times
Expiring land lease support
$2m program to help canefarmers
IN a bid to address the issue of expiring land leases that affect sugar cane farming communities, the Ministry of Sugar has reintroduced the New Farmers and Lease Premium Assistance Program.
Launching the program in Lautoka yesterday, Sugar Minister Charan Jeath Singh said $2 million was allocated to revive the program.
“The program was initially introduced during the 2017-2018 budget year and subsequently continued until the 2020-2021 fiscal year,” said Mr Singh.
“During this period, a total of $1.3m was allocated to support 268 new cane farmers.
“As of the last crushing season, which occurred in 2022, these newly established farmers collectively contributed to the production of over 33,000 tons of cane.
“I am pleased to announce that, in the 2023-2024 budgets we have allocated $2m to resume this vital program.
“Out of this allocation, $1.5m will go toward covering lease renewals for existing growers willing to continue, while $0.5m is earmarked for new individuals interested in entering the industry by either purchasing or leasing land to establish cane farms.”
Mr Singh said the ministry would cover 30 per cent of the lease.
“Government will provide a grant of either $7500 or 30 per cent of the lease premium cost, whichever amount is lower.
“This grant is accessible to two categories of individuals – new farmers interested in entering the sugarcane farming sector and existing farmers whose leases are approaching expiration.”
He said the request for support in payment of lease premium was made to cushion the high cost of premium that has been levied to growers by land administrators during lease renewals.
“It is our moral and economic duty to support our growers and safeguard our sugar industry.
“The allocation of funds in the 2023-2024 budget underscores our commitment to this cause.”