Agro-exporters have been urged to effectively contribute towards the development of the agriculture sector in order to leverage and ensure the growth of agricultural exports.
This was the message by the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy during a meeting with exporters at the Nacocolevu Research Station in Sigatoka yesterday.
Agro-exporters were also reminded to practice good ethical standards when dealing with farmers while buying their produce for the export market.
“We don’t want exporters to buy seed material from farmers so that they don’t have any planting material left to produce for the next planting season. This will also allow exporters to have a consistent supply of produce for the export market.
“Cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture, and consider shifting towards incentivizing and getting farmers to respond to the demand for production and supply,” he said.
Minister Reddy also highlighted Government’s intent for exporters to be allocated specific areas to service while directly linking them to farmers, in order to establish contracts between the two parties.
“We want exporters to facilitate the establishment of farmer trust accounts to assist in the farmer’s growth and development from those proceeds,” said Dr. Reddy.
In responding to issues raised by exporters, Minister Reddy highlighted the Ministry’s objective to set mutually agreed prices to address price cutting in source markets, which would ultimately inspire exporters to generate maximum foreign agricultural returns to Fiji.
“Currently, Fiji’s export earnings from agricultural products, minus sugar and fisheries, is just over $200m and we can easily double this figure in four years with some fundamental changes with cooperation from exporters and other stakeholders such as Biosecurity Authority of Fiji.
During the meeting, exporters also formed an interim association called “Fiji Agro Exporters Association” which will address the needs of all exporters in Fiji.
Meanwhile, the Founder and Managing Director of Cacao Fiji Mr. Arif Khan was impressed with the Ministry’s initiative on calling all exporters together to discuss the needs and issues in the export business as it was the first time for a meeting to be held between the Ministry of Agriculture and exporters.
Khan also welcomed the formation of the interim Fiji Agro Exporters Association and looks forward to working with other exporters in promoting Fiji’s agricultural exports.