Climate Change Threat High On PM’s Sugar Talk
ANALYSIS: Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is expected to highlight the threat of climate change on our economy during sugar talks in London this week.
Mr Bainimarama flies out tomorrow to attend the International Sugar Organisation (ISO) meeting.
He is expected to say that Cyclone Winston has been a terrible setback.
He is also expected to update the country’s position from the one revealed at the 49th session of the ISO Council in Turkey in May this year.
In that meeting it was said that our all up losses in the sugar cane industry added up to $163.35 million.
The loss of workers’ livelihoods was $53.3 million. The damage and losses at the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s mills was pegged at $72.7 million.
Production infrastructure losses were $16.9 million dollars. And a further $19.7 million had been lost in industry services.
Before Cyclone Winston the Government had high hopes for a bumper year when our 2016 crushing season started in June. But because of Winston, this year’s production was expected to drop by about 30 per cent.
The estimate then was a crop of 1.48 million metric tonnes of cane and 164,330 metric tonnes of raw sugar with a TCTS (Tonnes of Cane to Tonnes of Sugar) of 9.0. When compared to the 2015 crushing season, these estimates represent a decline in cane production of 19.6 per cent; a decline in sugar production of 25.9 per cent and a slight decline in TCTS of eight per cent.
Fiji was lucky that Winston spared the tourism industry.
The Fijian economy overall has been able to weather the blow to sugar – our second biggest earner – reasonably well. Despite the devastation by Winston, the Government is still expecting the economy to grow by up to 3 per cent this year.
But climate change continues to threaten the economy. That’s why we live in constant fear of what might happen if a cyclone scores a direct hit on the entire country.
Our economy could be devastated for years to come, all our hard won development gains would be lost and we would have little or no chance of meeting our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Government statement then said: “So it is against this sobering backdrop that Fiji goes to the world with an urgent plea. For the global community to give us immediate access to the finance we need – in the form of grants or loans – to build our resilience to climate change.
To strengthen our homes and our infrastructure, including in the sugar cane industry. To future proof our nation against the ever-rising seas and more extreme weather events the scientists say are coming our way. To give ourselves a fighting chance.
“That is now our number one national priority – to strengthen our economy, the industry, and protect the 200,000 Fijians who depend on sugar for their livelihoods.”
Fiji’s appointment to preside over COP23 in Bonn, Germany, next year gives us more opportunity to emphasise the danger posed by climate change.
Mr Bainimarama is likely to update Fiji’s preparation for the end of our sugar quota to the European Union in September next year.
Mr Bainimarama said yesterday after London, he would travel to Brussels to meet with officials of the European Union before coming back home to attend the Attorney-General’s Conference in Natadola where together with the President, Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konrote and the Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, and the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni, will launch the revised laws of Fiji which have not been consolidated for more than 30 years.
Edited by Naisa Koroi