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Time Is Ticking, Think Big, Think Food, Think Sovereignty Fiji, Bajekal Says

Already, the change in weather patterns, such as the ongoing impact of El-Nino has suffocated parts, if not all, the major farming areas in Fiji. As nations become more rigorous
31 Oct 2015 10:03
Time Is Ticking, Think Big, Think Food, Think Sovereignty Fiji, Bajekal Says
FMF Foods managing director, Ram Bajekal.

Already, the change in weather patterns, such as the ongoing impact of El-Nino has suffocated parts, if not all, the major farming areas in Fiji.

As nations become more rigorous about food sovereignty, there has never been a better time for farmers in Fiji to start thinking bigger about self-sufficiency and fast.

This was the strong message by FMF Foods managing director Ram Bajekal during a big Asia Pacific conference in Bali, Indonesia this week.

“As food becomes more and more scarce, the downstream producers will need to start looking for areas where they can have long-term contracts on sourcing,” Mr Bajekal said.

“For instance, in our case, things like cassava, taro, potatoes. We will need to start looking for sources directly, in order to secure supplies that are of a continuous nature.

“And also an adequate volume that we require.”

 

The ‘market movers’

The meeting discussed talks about future food hikes that’s likely to be controlled by the two most powerful market movers, China and India.

“The question of how long would this threaten our food import bill, our livelihood and food security, standards of living is something that a country as small as ours should not have to endure.

“In recent times, we have seen how natural disasters have strangled our subsistence and commercial food crops.

“Already, the change in weather patterns, such as the ongoing impact of El-Nino has suffocated parts, if not all, the major farming areas in Fiji.

“Toppled by this are other areas which climate change’s impact such as coastal areas. Issues like soil inundation and soil salinity seeping through our water systems is becoming a major concern for Government and farmers.

“The question of demand and supply should now be addressed more than ever before, he added.

“There are clearly a lot of projects happening all over the place. We need a kind of focused effort into what Fiji needs,” Mr Bajekal added.

“I’m hoping that Fiji has been able to garner the kind of support that it requires from these projects.”

 

The workshop

The four-day conference was themed Innovation for Rural Transformation Asia and Pacific in the 21st Century.

It is focused at making global and national policies favourable to rural farmers, find marketable ways to sell their produce while at the same time overcoming issues surrounding climate change.

The meeting helped Asia Pacific government officials and executives to learn from each other’s techniques, brainstorm ideas, debate and adopt ideas that would be mutual and beneficial for their respective nations.

The drivers behind the fruitful discussions were the Indonesian government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

IFAD is the United Nation’s funding institution which focuses on enabling rural people to overcome poverty, social and environmental issues like climate change.

 

Disintermediation

Mr Bajekal said one top priority Fiji would have to look into was disintermediation, meaning, a reduction in the use of intermediaries between producers and consumers.

“Every act of disintermediation is there is an opportunity to save some costs and that saving can be shared between the food producer and the primary producer/farmer,” he said.

“We ought to be looking backwards and try to intervene backwards with the farming sector.”

“Once there’s a linkage between the markets, the food producers and the farms there will be a huge opportunity for farmers to start looking at growing more high volume because they know that market access is short.”

The discussion was drawn from the emergence of Public-Private-Producers Partnerships or PPPP, a partnership that is for efficient and inclusive value-chain investment.

Feedback: ranobab@fijisun.com.fj

 

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