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Fiji Sugar industry faces bleak future

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Image source: youtube.com

Auckland, New Zealand: The sugar industry of Fiji degrades due to damage from Cyclone Winston in February and an impending expiry of crucial low-tariff exports deal with the European Union.

Winston, one of the strongest cyclones ever in the South Pacific, slammed into Fiji on February 20. The storm claimed 44 lives in Fiji and caused damage valued at $226 million, including $48.4 million to the sugar industry, according to preliminary estimates by the Fiji National Disaster Management Office.

A village destroyed by Cyclone Winston on Fiji's Koro Island. Image source: asia.nikkei.com
A village destroyed by Cyclone Winston on Fiji’s Koro Island. Image source: asia.nikkei.com

The industry, the country’s largest employer, employs about 40,000 people, with up to 250,000 of the country’s 881,000 population relying on it when extended families are included. About 80% of the current crop was destroyed, and two of four crushing mills run by the state-owned Fiji Sugar Corporation were damaged.

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the cyclone was a terrible blow, coming just after a glowing economic report on Fiji from the International Monetary Fund. “Now all of that may be in doubt,” he told diplomats.

The IMF report, released on February 5, said Fiji was “enjoying strong growth momentum, due to higher investment, robust tourism and strong remittances, supported by an improvement in the terms of trade.”

More presciently, the IMF noted that significant risks to growth were “largely related to external developments, including Fiji’s exposure to natural disasters.” The rains brought by Winston followed two years of drought.

Praveen Singh, the leader of a cane producers’ association, said the combination of the drought and Winston had created a bad situation ahead of the harvesting season between June and September. “We may have to forego the 2016 harvest and plan for a bigger harvest next year,” he said.

Last year’s crop of 1.84 million tons of cane produced 222,000 tons of raw sugar, one of the country’s lowest harvests. In 1996, a record 4.4 million tons of cane was crushed. Around 75% of Fiji’s arable land is planted with sugar cane and the crop is Fiji’s biggest export, valued at $52 million in 2015.

A sugar cane train in Fiji delivers the crop to the mill. Image source: asia.nikkei.com
A sugar cane train in Fiji delivers the crop to the mill. Image source: asia.nikkei.com

Most of Fiji’s sugar exports go to the UK, where it has preferential access to EU support measures, and prices are up to four times the global sugar price. The EU is due to scrap the measures next year, leaving Fiji to compete for head on with sugar producing giants such as Australia, Brazil, India, and Thailand.

EU-Pacific ambassador Andrew Jacobs has hinted that Brussels might develop proposals to help Fiji. “The EU recognizes that the sugar industry is very important to Fiji,” he said, without offering specific measures.

However, Fijians appear divided about whether the industry has a future, and what its long-term impact will be on the economy, relations between the country’s indigenous Fijian and ethnic Indian population groups, and stability in the coup-prone political system.

About 16,000 cane growers are Indian, according to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics.

Addressing the International Sugar Organization in November, Bainimarama said the future for Fiji sugar after the end of the EU deal would lie in extracting “the maximum sugar possible from every stick of cane.”

“We must extract every economic advantage we can from the sugar cane plant and the more productive and resilient varieties we continue to develop,” Bainimarama said. India has provided Fiji with a $70 million line of credit to build a co-generation plant, but a small pilot plant was affected by Winston.

Bainimarama said the industry was irreplaceable. “It cannot and must not be allowed to decline… [despite] the odds that are stacked against us; we do not intend to give up on sugar cane in Fiji,” he said.

Institutional analysts said the industry faced major structural problems. The IMF report also said that “modernization of the industry is urgently needed to improve international competitiveness.”

Padma Lal, an economist who has specialized in studying the Fiji sugar industry, said the damage to mills, irrigation and drainage systems, roads and rail links made it imperative for Fiji to diversify its rural economy away from sugar by increasing production of vegetables, poultry, ducks and goat meat.

“I would use this opportunity to rationalize the industry, however painful it may be,” said Lal.

(The article was first published in asia.nikkei.com)

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A Closer Look at Liverpool’s Exciting Baltic Triangle Sector

Liverpool in general is one of the best places in the UK to invest

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Liverpool
While Liverpool in general is one of the best places in the UK to invest, with comparatively affordable house prices (currently sitting at £174,232 according to Zoopla, as opposed to £644,215, for example, in London) and high average rental yields, the Baltic Triangle specifically is an outlier and opportunity for investors. Pixabay

Birthplace of the Beatles and home to the current football Champions of Europe, Liverpool is a northern great of a city that has a ton of opportunity, and a constant hum of inspiring energy. In recent years, Liverpool’s energy has spilled out from the heart of the city centre and its surrounding streets, and now has branched out throughout the entirety of the area, no longer concentrated at its core.

Here’s a more specific look at the Baltic Triangle, one of the most popular and desirable pockets of the city at the moment.

Trendiest place to live

Often drawn in parallel with the likes of London’s Shoreditch, and at one point deemed ‘the coolest place to live in Britain’ by the Times, the Baltic Market has an abundance of bars, restaurants, and attractions, perfect for a city that is known for its nightlife. Here are some of the highlights:

 

  • A great place to start is the Baltic Market, a grand bazaar containing food stalls from some of the best and most diverse food spots in the city, complete with a bar and live music. This place is constantly packed, and perfect for friends who can’t decide where they want to go to eat.

 

 

  • Bongo’s Bingo is a must-visit attraction for a night out, situated in the Camp & Furnace restaurant across from Cain’s Brewery. It’s very different from your average bingo night, that’s for sure, with anything from rave intervals to dance-offs around the corner. Weird prizes are also on offer here, but whether you’ll want them or not is a different story.

 

 

  • Again situated in the heart of the area is Ghetto Golf, a fully indoor mini-golf course, decorated with snazzy neon lights and loud music. Again perfect for a night out with friends, the out-of-the-ordinary course has some ‘interesting’ hole choices and a fully-fledge cocktail bar.

 

Investment strong spot

While Liverpool in general is one of the best places in the UK to invest, with comparatively affordable house prices (currently sitting at £174,232 according to Zoopla, as opposed to £644,215, for example, in London) and high average rental yields, the Baltic Triangle specifically is an outlier and opportunity for investors. As a prime example, RWinvest are aiming to keep on top of the demand from tenants to live in the area, preparing high-quality buy-to-let apartments and housing at the centre of the area. There are even plans in motion for a £70m hotel, allowing more people to stay and enjoy the area.

Liverpool
Birthplace of the Beatles and home to the current football Champions of Europe, Liverpool is a northern great of a city that has a ton of opportunity, and a constant hum of inspiring energy. Pixabay

Digital trendsetter

The Baltic Triangle is where many digital businesses call home, inhabiting the once unused warehouse buildings of yesterday and giving them a new purpose. These companies have not only thrived in recent years, cultivating an exciting sense of community in the city, but they are also contributing significantly to the city’s overall economy.

ALSO READ: Our Facebook and Instagram Friends Implicitly Influence Our Eating Habits, Reveals Study

Additionally, while the area is already heavily populated by a large number of young business and professionals, the city’s makeup of creative and talented young people will also surely push it forward as developments continue. Many students living and working at the surrounding universities will no doubt want to continue to contribute upon graduation, and there are even schools such as The Studio situated on the doorstep of the Baltic Triangle, with programmes and skills aiming to give them all they need to make the most of the facilities nearby to them. For a young person looking to garner experience and digital skills, it’s an exciting place to be.