A milestone achievement in Government’s bid to modernize Fiji’s Agriculture Sector through Biotechnology was launched today at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Nacocolevu Research Station in Sigatoka.
Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment, Dr. Mahendra Reddy officially launched the Livestock Biotechnology Embryo Transfer [ET] Program this morning, acknowledging that it was a first of its kind in Fiji to ensure the improvement of the local beef and dairy industry.
“The overall performances of our Beef and Dairy industry over the years have been stagnant which is due mainly to the traditional breeds of animals, diseases like Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, knowledge and capacity to manage livestock diseases, the vulnerability of the sector to natural disasters, economic and political shocks, farming scale, poor quality, and unpredictable production,” Minister Reddy said.
“For a long time now, Fiji is still a net importer of beef and dairy products from Australia and New Zealand to supplement our taste and preference for these commodities. For this reason, retail prices are closely linked to import prices,” he said.
Reddy emphasized Fiji’s 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda which highlighted the introduction of modern farming technology, equipment and inputs, mechanization, biotechnology, innovation and better farming practices which will increase productivity, profitability and food security for our increasing population.
“Therefore, in identifying the lack of performances in Fiji’s Dairy and Beef industry due to poor genetics, the Ministry has opted for Embryo Transfer, which is a safer method of improving farmer’s herds rather than the normal practice of importation of cattle,” said Minister Reddy.
“The Ministry’s continued effort to improve our existing breeds led to a number of consultations with Farmers and Stakeholders to ensure that we identify the preferred breeds for our national herds that can adapt to climate change, resist disease and maintain high productivity in harsh conditions. Thus the identification of such breeds “Senepol” for beef and Brown Swiss” for dairy,” he added.
He further elaborated that the Ministry recognized the Biotechnology Program – Embryo Transfer as the solution to introducing new bloodlines into the farmer’s herd to reduce inbreeding, and improve performances and productivity.
With Phase 1 of the Embryo Transfer program already implemented whereby new genetics in the form of the embryo were imported from Australia, Hon. Reddy acknowledged the cooperation of its stakeholders, namely Biosecurity Authority of Fiji and the Australian Reproductive Technology in assisting the Ministry to ensure the successful execution of the first phase.
“Out of the 78 recipients transplanted with the embryo, 40 were confirmed pregnant. This is about 50 percent success rate which is acceptable for tropical countries like Fiji. In September this year, 37 calves were born,” said Reddy.
“For Phase 2, the success rate was 52 percent, where 90 embryos were transferred and 47 recipients are confirmed pregnant. At this rate, we look forward to a more favorable outcome in the next few months,” he further stated,” he further stated.
“I believe that this the new era not only for Beef and Dairy but for Fiji’s livestock industry. That is why we are gathered here today to celebrate this success, raise awareness, share information on the changing landscape for livestock and identify further opportunities available for Fiji’s cattle industry,” said Reddy.
The Ministry is now initiating Phase 3 where two other beef breeds have been identified, Drought Master and Wagyu.
The genetics will be distributed to local farmers whereby the Ministry will also be conducting extensive training for both staff and farmers to ensure successful implementation and the sustainability of the program.