Opinion

The Way Forward For Agriculture

Millions of dollars worth of damage has been sustained by our agriculture sector as a result of Tropical Cyclone Winston. Those who were spared from the havoc TC Winston caused,
16 May 2016 15:20
The Way Forward For Agriculture
Agriculture

Millions of dollars worth of damage has been sustained by our agriculture sector as a result of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Those who were spared from the havoc TC Winston caused, could at least secure their homes and even in future, cyclone proof homes can be built.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our agriculture sector because we cannot plant crops which are cyclone proof – or so we aren’t aware of anything as such.

TC Winston’s impact has led to a significant increase in yaqona price which have climbed to up to $110 per kilogram from $30 per kg.

Knowing very well the number of people who drink kava, this price increase will surely make a hole in the pockets of many Fijians.

It is already being felt with yaqona bags which used to be sold for $1 now being sold for up to $5 per bag. And if the price has not increased, the quantity has surely dropped.

But the worst isn’t here yet. Projections are it will take three to six years for our yaqona industry to recover following the devastation caused to the industry by TC Winston.

This is given that yaqona is a slow-growing crop. And while the current supply in the market is based on what was already ready, farmers’ supply for 2017, 2018, and 2019 was all taken away by TC Winston.

So we will be in for a shock as far as yaqona is concerned. Expectations are we might even have to import yaqona from Vanuatu.

Similar damage has been sustained across almost all areas of the agriculture sector.

People are feeling the pinch in their pockets with increasing vegetable prices in the market. Some have even compared the prices of vegetables with meat and infact meat comes out to be cheaper alternative.

This is not the most healthy option but consumers do not have a choice as they cannot afford to buy a vegetables for $5 to $10 to feed only three people.

Way forward

The best way to move ahead is not to sit back and sulk but rather start planting crops as soon as possible.

We are blessed to have so much fertile land around us and if we start off now, we can recover in no time.

What is needed is commitment, hardwork and smart working-together thinking by the Government, farmers and all stakeholders.

It is a fact our exports would naturally struggle due to the lack of supply. But if we focus one at a time starting with meeting local demands and needs, exports would pick up in no time.

Focus can be on immediately planting short-term crops so these can be harvested in no time. On the side, planting can also be done for long-term crops.

What is now needed is proper planning and collaboration by everyone.

RACHNA LAL

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

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