Seven new cluster dairy farmers in Waidina, Naitasiri were established in the last few weeks as part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s efforts to not only boost milk production to meet market demand but also to improve the livelihoods of dairy farmers.
Ministry’s permanent secretary, Mr Ritesh Dass said the new cluster farmers were set up under the Ministry’s Dairy Industry Support program aimed at also assisting to reduce the national import bill.
“The program was designed to help raise and improve the Fiji Dairy Industry contribution, to increase the overall local milk production and also improve the rural income earning capacities of farmers in Fiji,” Mr Dass said.
The DIS program has been targeting potential areas with farmers from Waidina, Naitasiri; Sigatoka; and Nayavu, Wainibuka to branch into dairy.
“There is definitely an interest in this program that will benefit farmers in providing a market that will provide a consistent income,” Mr Dass said.
He added that the new cluster farmers group recently formed in Waidina are crop farmers interested in diversifying into the dairy sector to boost the industry and encourage to upscale production from farmers.
The program focuses on providing new dairy sheds for farmers, fencing, water tanks and fodder establishment.
“The assistance is geared to prepare them for a sustainable production and supply of milk an addition to the Central dairy farmers who supply over 60 percent of the total milk supply,” the permanent secretary said
.Farmers of the new Waidina Dairy Cluster were trained on infrastructure improvement, record keeping, dairy management practices, milk hygiene, with the provision of the market, and nutritional and pasture improvement.
In addition to training, farmers visited the Koronivia Livestock Unit and dairy farmers in Tailevu.Gusuisavu farmer, Mr Naibuka Inakula thanked the Ministry for creating pathways for farmers with livestock.“We are accustomed to the old ways of farming, and dairy farming was not something that we thought about taking up in Waidina,” he said.
“There is a huge opportunity in taking up dairy farming and the impact it will create to our livelihoods and its contribution to the economy. Therefore, it is vital that we are trained to deliver quality products because we are newly established,” Mr Naibuka said.
The number of dairy farms in Fiji increased from 987 in 2015 to 1,130 in 2019. The total quantity of milk exported in 2019 was 23,104 kg, worth a total value of $236,768.