Qaraniqoli rice farmers were all smiles when they became the first farmers’ Cooperative in the Northern Division to receive a rice harvester from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Qaraniqoli Farmers’ Cooperative President Vinod Kumar, 51, said it was the first time that any government had assisted them and they were very happy about it.

“Thanks to the Fiji First Government and Minister Reddy for this assistance. Before, no other Government Minister has come to us, Minister Reddy is the first,” he said.

Mr Kumar who leads 26 farmers in their Cooperative said between them, they had a total of 150 acres of land dedicated to rice farming.He said the new rice harvester would assist them to generate revenue for the Cooperative that would help them in their plan to purchase a second and possibly even a third machine

.In handing the mechanical harvester over to the Cooperative, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, the Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy thanked the donors who made the gesture possible.

“I want to thank the donors; Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the European Union (EU) for providing the harvester and hope it will motivate, boost and incentivize your production,” he told the farmers of Qaraniqoli.

He said if the farmers were not productive, they would not have received the harvester.“But this area (Qaraniqoli) is productive, and if possible we want you to grow two or three crops per year.”

In addition, the Minister urged the Cooperative to look after their brand new machine well.“You need to keep the machine for no less than 20 years. Effectively it will be yours.

“You need to have a constitution, you need to decide what to levy to farmers to pay for fuel, and to the operator of the rice harvester,” he told the farmers.He said other farming communities in Vanua Levu would also be receiving rice harvesters so as to address the issue of complaints regarding the late arrival of rice harvesters.

Dr Reddy said in a couple of months’ time, the Ministry would also be providing the Cooperative with a small portable rice mill, at no cost to them.

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