Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has urged stakeholders to closely engage with each other to ensure the sustainability of Fiji's sugar industry.
While opening the Fiji/FAO 2012 Asia Pacific Sugar Conference in Nadi today, Bainimarama highlighted the reforms undertaken by government to bring about a sustainable sugar industry in the country.
Organised by the Fiji Sugar Industry in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the conference has gathered officials from around the world to look at issues concerning the sugar industry including the use of sugar policies to promote trade development and growth.
Bainimarama in his address said since its first cultivation 130 years ago, sugar cane and the production of sugar remain an essential part of the Fijian economy.
"It is a major economic driver, and it is responsible for the livelihood of approximately 200,000 Fijians, more than 20% of our population", he said.
"We are committed to creating a modern, economically viable and sustainable Sugar industry in Fiji. As I have said many times before, the Fijian Sugar Industry is here to stay".
Highlighting the challenges faced by the industry's stakeholders, the Prime Minister called for a collective approach in addressing these challenges and to use the meet as a platform to exchange ideas and experiences.
"Government initiatives and financial backing can only achieve so much. It is through dialogue, team work, a sense of common purpose, and a willingness to accept new ideas and practices that the Industry will be successful."
"Regional meetings such as this allow us to share our experiences, transfer knowledge and advice, and strengthen our regional network and support structures. Though particular circumstances differ from country to country, as a region, we are faced by many of the same issues, such as market access and opportunities, particularly as they relate to the ACP and its status with the EU," the Prime Minister added.
The 3 day meet will look at the sugar growth models and experiences from around the region and international including Brazil, Ethiopia, India, and Australia.
By Reginald Chandar