The Minister for Multi-Ethnic Affairs & Sugar Industry, the Hon. Charan Jeath Singh;
The Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, the Hon. Vatimi Rayalu;
The Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, the Hon. Filimoni Vosarogo;
The Permanent Secretary for Multi-Ethnic Affairs & Sugar, Mr. Yogesh Karan, Board Directors of Fiji Sugar Corporation,
Sugar Cane Growers Fund, Sugar Cane Growers Council,
South Pacific Fertilizers Limited and Sugar Research Institute of Fiji;
CEO’s of various Sugar Institutions;
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where we now stand. Na Vanua o Namoli, na delaniyavu i Vidilo, vua na Viyagwane na Taukei Vidilo – their leaders, past, present and emerging. 

It is with profound gratitude that I stand before you today as the Chief Guest at the Inaugural Sugar Industry Workshop. I am deeply moved by the impassioned address delivered by the Minister for Multi-Ethnic Affairs & Sugar Industry – Hon. Charan Jeath Singh. His unwavering dedication to the revival of the industry fills me with confidence that under his leadership, we can indeed breath fresh air with this vital sector.

The sugar industry holds a special place in the heart of every Fijian. It is not merely an industry; it is a symbol of our resilience, our heritage, and our collective spirit.

As Acting Prime Minister, I assure you that our government is fully committed to supporting the revival and sustainability of this vital sector. The words spoken by the Minister for Sugar Industry echo the sentiments of our entire government. We recognize the challenges faced by our sugar industry, and we are prepared to confront them head-on.

From the highest levels of leadership to grassroots initiatives, we stand united in our determination to see the sugar industry thrive once more. Having had the privilege of serving on Parliamentary Standing Committees, I've witnessed firsthand the challenges facing our sugar industry.

From the complexities surrounding land lease renewals, which have posed significant obstacles for our farmers, to the impact of the expiration of EU preferential pricing, which has dealt a substantial setback to the livelihoods of our hardworking cane farmers—these challenges have tested the resilience of our industry.

Moreover, the looming specter of climate change has only exacerbated the situation, further compounding the difficulties faced by our farmers. The increasingly erratic weather patterns, rising temperatures, and heightened incidence of natural disasters have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of our sugar sector. However, it is imperative that we confront these challenges with determination and resolve. We must draw upon our collective wisdom, innovation, and resourcefulness to chart a path forward that ensures the sustainability and prosperity of our sugar industry for generations to come.

We, the coalition government, understand the importance of providing tangible support to our farmers, who toil tirelessly to nurture our sugarcane fields. The initiatives outlined by the Minister, from record-breaking cane payments to innovative programs aimed at boosting production, are just the beginning of our efforts to uplift and empower those at the heart of this industry.

But our commitment does not end there. We acknowledge the need for comprehensive solutions to address the challenges facing the sugar sector.

From modernizing infrastructure to tackling land lease issues and mitigating the impacts of climate change, we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and work tirelessly to overcome these obstacles. I have listened to Minister Singh’s views and appreciated his vision for the industry relative to the critical issues that we have. The idea of value-addition, which should have been done decades back when this industry was the first industry and top economic earner.

I question those in leadership then who should have had plans for diverse investments, such as hotels, commercials office buildings, tourism projects and many more. It’s not late though and we would like to see a new mill soon in Rakiraki.

An Ethanol Plant and also a refinery in the future as we progress with the new plans. We will need aviation fuel, most likely more than a billion dollars not too far from now given that our tourism numbers are hitting a billion. So, we have this opportunity to capitalize on paralleled with the improving world market price for sugar. The Minister has mentioned about a replacement mill in Rakiraki and we are looking forward to his investment proposal. I know there are prime land in Rakiraki, excellent for farming which has produced some of the best yields in the past years. Let’s get back to that and make it happen again.

We understand the challenges and limitations ahead, but together we can get over those barriers, so let’s make it. Today’s workshop is timely and it was long due. And I am pleased to have with me other ministers who am confident share the same views. We need integration, cohesion and the will to make things happen. This workshop provides that platform and an excellent opportunity for you to come together, share insights, and forge a path forward.

This is a testament to our collective engagement to resolve and build a stronger and more resilient sugar industry—one that not only sustains our economy but also preserves our cultural heritage for generations to come.

As Acting Prime Minister, I pledge my full support to this noble cause. I urge all participants to engage actively in the discussions and contribute their ideas, expertise, and passion to the collective effort. Together, let us embark on this journey with determination, optimism, and unity of purpose. With the unwavering support of our government and the dedication of all stakeholders, I am confident that we will succeed in restoring the sugar industry to its rightful place as a cornerstone of our nation's prosperity.

Allow me to challenge each and every one of you present here today. Let us strive to make this day, May 10th, 2024, a historic day in the Fiji’s calendar—a day that marks the beginning of our journey to transform the sugar industry into a success story once more.

I leave you with the words of a former American politician and a motivational speaker; Les Brown; "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars."

Let us aim high, work together, and strive for excellence as we chart the course for a brighter future for Fiji's sugar industry.

Vina valevu, God bless you and God bless Fiji.