Food security is very important and more so after #COVID-19 pandemic which has brought to light the need to be self-sufficient.
This is the reason the Government has not only continued to allocate funds towards agriculture but has in fact increased the budgetary allocation in this financial period.
The A-G said that “in Fiji, we import more rice than we produce as rice is a staple food which every #Fijian eats”
“So there is an opportunity for local producers and that is why the Government is working with Fiji Rice to ensure its success.
In the 2020-2021 budget, the Government has allocated $800,000 to be paid to farmers directly for their paddies.
Fiji Rice chairman, Raj Sharma said since the past two years farmers had been wanting to a storage facility which the company has been able to deliver through the assistance of the Government which contributed $100,000.“In the last eight years, the Government has provided $5.2 million as a grant subsidy to the farmers which has been used to pay them for their paddies,” Mr Sharma said.
In addition, he said, the Government has also provided $688,000 as a capital grant to Fiji Rice and there has been an upgrade of infrastructure worth $1.5m.
The event was also significant as Fiji Rice signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with HFC Bank to provide farmers with loan packages of about $3000 to $10,000 with an interest rate of five percent.
The A-G applauded the bank, which along with Fiji Development Bank, had come on board to assist farmers because as he pointed out, if the lending portfolio of banks were scrutinised, the farming sector has been ignored by commercial banks. “It is good to see a 100 percent Fijian Bank is working with our Fijian farmers.”
He also handed a certificate to Fiji Rice for employing one person under the Government’s “Stronger Together” Job Support Scheme.