Qila and Barotu farmers of Taveuni Island have been urged to effectively contribute towards ensuring the agriculture sector’s expansion and growth towards becoming a leading industry in the country’s economy.
This was reiterated by Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment, Dr. Mahendra Reddy during an informal discussion with farmers yesterday, who stressed one avenue this could be realized was for them to consider their farming ventures as businesses.
“We want agriculture to grow, but if you are only farming for leisure or are emotionally inclined to it, that will not help us to grow. For agriculture, we have a brand name and in addition, we are fortunate that we have a population, our own people, who create the demand for our product outside of Fiji,” said Reddy.
“We have a market outside Fiji and we want to promote agriculture as a business for the export and tourism sector within Fiji too, as we’re exporting a lot to overseas markets,” he added.
Dr. Reddy said in substituting import and exporting, farmers will be contributing towards the building up of foreign reserves which was critical for any country; “For a country to operate it must have enough foreign exchange, if the country doesn’t have any foreign exchange, it will collapse because it will always have to import something.”
Farmers were advised that in order to obtain foreign exchange, Fiji needed to sell its services and products through tourism and agriculture.
“Fiji is a developing country, and is an open economy and will always have a trade deficit because we are importing more than we’re exporting but we can manage that,” he stated.
To combat that issue, the Minister highlighted the new direction the Ministry of Agriculture was heading to promote agriculture development in Fiji.
“We want agriculture to take the leading role, to pull through and be the leading sector in the economy like it used to be before,” he said.
“We now have the opportunity for non-sugar crops to lead, crops, and livestock, as it can be the beacon of our agricultural growth and development.
“Amongst that Kava could be the leading crop and on the livestock side, sheep could be the leading commodity with massive room for import substitution, with beef and goat for the local market.
Furthermore, the Northern Division has been earmarked as a major hub for livestock production whereas Taveuni is targeted as the major hub for dalo and kava production.
Reddy also highlighted the Ministry’s new approach to establishing Commodity Experts saying, “We will be restructuring and what we want to do in the Ministry now is to establish commodity experts and they will drive that particular commodity, production, supply and structuring of the industry of that particular commodity.”