If the 12,000 sugarcane farmers in Fiji can allocate only two acres of land to plant rice, Fiji will be self-sufficient in terms of rice production, says Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, the Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy.
He made the comments while opening the Rice Field Day demonstration in Nawaicoba, Nadi today.
“We want 24,000 acres of land for rice production. “Some people may question, how we get 24,000 acres. Look we’ve got 12,000 sugarcane farmers, if each farmer gives two acres, we’re done – 24,000 acres. “And we will be able to get close to 80-90% self-sufficiency,” he said.
The Minister said Government was concerned at reducing the import bill for rice and therefore, needed to beef up rice production.
“On average, Fiji is importing $46.2m. “In economic terms, we are putting pressure on our foreign reserves. $46.2m in Fiji dollars is going out of the country in foreign currency, that’s in US dollars, $20m is going out every year.”
He encouraged farmers to complement their farm income and set aside one or two acres of land for rice productionHe added at one time Fiji was 66% self-sufficient in rice, but now the country was only producing 16 to 17%. “We have gone down substantially from 66% to 17%. We want to go back there. I want to go back to 80-90%, we can do it. If all our sugar cane farmers allocate two acres of land, or one acre and two crops per year – we’re done!”.Dr Reddy said each acre of rice could produce about 1.5 tonnes of paddy grain. He said farmers do not need to worry about market as Fiji Rice Limited would buy it all.“But in the interim, Fiji Rice Limited will buy all your rice. They will purchase it at farm gate. At the moment the price is $800 per tonne. They will be happy to purchase it.”