Calls to establish a joint taskforce to address the Asian Subterranean Termite problem between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Fiji National University was made by Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Dr Mahendra Reddy this week.

He made the call while opening the two-day ‘2020 National Agriculture Symposium’ at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour.

“I must say while we have so many experts within MoA and FNU, we have not done much to protect our agriculture sector from the Asian Subterranean Termites.

“Where is our contribution? We are mere spectators while termites are expanding its base in Fiji and threatening the dwellings and agriculture to some extent now.

“It’s time that you establish a joint taskforce and go for a war on termites and firstly, stop its spread and secondly reduce its numbers towards zero in their existing areas,” the Minister said.

Dr Reddy said there was a need to support the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji in full proofing Fiji’s borders as that was the source of new pests and diseases into the country.

The Minister also shone the spotlight on importers for their lax attitude in not thoroughly checking on pests in their containers.

“Our importers are taking it lightly on inadvertent carriage of pests in their containers.

“They do not invest in thorough check up of their containers and as if doesn’t matter to their bottom line.

“BAF intercepts pests on a weekly basis in shipments and this is a worrying situation,” he said.

Another constraint affecting the agriculture sector, the Minister said, was Fiji losing out on millions of dollars on imported fertilizer.

He said it was a major cost component at farm level and an environment hazard.

“Yet I see no real urge and push from the Centre to move towards organic manure use.

“People are too comfortable with the status quo,” he said.

Dr. Reddy noted that the Ministry is working towards providing quality organic manure to farmers throughout Fiji and has also commended the work of private sector players who are providing organic manure as a business. He urged them not to price it too close to that of inorganic fertilizers as then there will be no interest from farmers to switch to organic fertilizer.

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