Practicing organic farming for improved quality healthy produce and environment safety has been recommended as the most viable option for farmers.
This was highlighted by Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy while visiting Praneel Kumar’s organic farm in Kulukulu, Sigatoka.
“Government supports the practice of sustainable methods of cultivation, we’re promoting the minimal use of chemicals and fertilizers and urging farmers to revert and practice organic farming.
“There is a niche market for organic produce and the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to advocate new strategies that minimize the use of chemicals and fertilizers on farms as current practices have taken a toll on the land and environment,” he said.
Minister Reddy also stressed that fostering a subsidy based system for agriculture would not be beneficial for the sector, stating that reducing the use of fertilizers and shifting towards organic farming and use of organic fertilizers was the more suitable choice.
“Organic farming will protect our global brand image which is an environmentally friendly product that will generate revenue and allow entry into high-end value markets,” he said.
Work is already in progress on the strategies to implement organic production by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“There are two things we are embarking on. Firstly, in most parts of Fiji and highlands of Viti Levu, farmers still practice organic farming as a way of life. In order to certify these farmers, the Ministry is working closely with our local counterparts, POETCom (Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community), the “Earth Care Agency” (TECA), and a global certification body – “Control Union Certifications” (CUC) – to carry out inspections and issue certificates to organic farmers. We have identified 30 organic ginger farmers to pilot the organic farm project in the Districts of Nasau and Nailuva in Ra,” said Minister Reddy.
Praneel Kumar, a 31-year-old organic farmer specializes in herbs, fruits and vegetables planting on a total land area of 10 acres. He is currently supplying to local and international hotels and restaurants around Sigatoka, Nadi and Suva.
Mr Kumar was assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2017 with the protective structure and farm implements worth $16,000, with profits from this assistance already reinvested back into his farm for further expansion.