Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment, Dr. Mahendra Reddy during his current tour of the Western Division highlighted Government’s continued commitment to the development of the agriculture sector.
This was relayed by Minister Reddy during an informal talanoa session held with Paipai/Vakabuli Pineapple Cluster farmers in Lautoka, whereby he received feedback from farmers on the issues they faced, and clarified the roles of two Ministries under his portfolio, namely Agriculture and Waterways, and what farmers could expect from the available services.
“The Fijian Government wants the agriculture sector to expand, the Ministry is continuously advising farmers to view agriculture as a business and you need to operate your farms as a business, which is the only way the agriculture sector can grow further and expand,” Minister Reddy said.
Minister Reddy also assured farmers that there would be increased involvement by the Ministry in terms of providing quality services to the farmers stating; “We will strengthen our advisory capacity on the ground with more visibility of Agriculture officers on the farms.”
Reddy also advised farmers to minimize their dependence on the use of fertilizers and chemicals.
“We are looking into the minimal use of chemicals and fertilizers and are advising farmers to revert and practice organic farming, the Ministry of Agriculture will soon advocate farmers on new strategies and substitutes on the use of chemicals and fertilizers,” he added.
Farmers also used the opportunity to raise agricultural and waterways related issues concerning their farms, with assurances that these issues would be addressed.
The Paipai/Vakabuli Pineapple cluster was formed by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2017 with 7 farmers from Paipai/Vakabuli settlement due to their common interest and activities in Pineapple farming in order to combine and make the best use of their skills and resources, to exchange views and ideas and collectively choose the best options and to deal with the common problems that cannot adequately be addressed at the individual level like the construction of farm roads and to increase their power of advocacy.
The farmers in the cluster group were some of the few farmers that diversified from cane to pineapple and vegetables 15-20 years ago and still continue to supply their produce to the Lautoka market and to other middlemen.
The Ministry of Agriculture has so far assisted the group with land clearing on one acre land for each farmer for continued expansion of their pineapple farms, construction of a borehole and assisted the group with water tank and piping.