Agriculture has become the hope of Fijians since COVID-19 closed down the tourism sector, says Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy.
He made the comments while commissioning the Nabitu Nursery at Sigatoka.
“The agriculture sector continued to grow even during COVID-19. “It became the hope for people who shunned agriculture, and went to other sectors like the formal sector, manufacturing sector, and commercial sector and when these closed, they returned to agriculture,” he said.
The Hon. Minister said the Ministry was happy to provide assistance and was still doing so to those who were either on reduced hours or completely laid off from work from these affected industries.
Minister Reddy also acknowledged the hard work put in by farmers, producers and exporters following the 15percent increase in volume of agriculture exports of fresh and chilled produce recorded that was sent to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.
“This is a remarkable achievement and I want to thank all the farmers and all the exporters. Had it not been for their hard work it would have been difficult to achieve that,” he said.
He added that the fact that Fiji was able to record this achievement despite the serious challenges the country faced in the first six months of 2020 and continued to face as a result of the Corona Virus, was incredible.
“There were challenges such as lock downs and farmers and exporters had to navigate through those lock downs to get their produce air freighted; curfew hours, which were for a longer period during that time within those first six months and farmers and exporters had to work within the limited hours to ensure their produce was collected on time and prepped for biosecurity checks, before being sent by air freight.
“Another issue was the increased freight rate, which increased as a means to cover lost revenue from non-traveling passengers following the border closures.” The Hon. Minister said Fiji was still able to perform brilliantly against all odds.
“All the appreciation is for all farmers, producers, and exporters. So I want to formally acknowledge the hard work you have done to ensure that we were able to reach this stage.”