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Govt Committed To Develop North: Seruiratu

Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu yesterday reminded rice farmers gathered for a talanoa session that the Government was committed in its effort to develop Vanua Levu. Mr Seruiratu, the former
07 Jan 2017 11:00
Govt Committed To Develop North: Seruiratu
Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu with his team during a talanoa session with rice farmers at the Rewa Rice Limited mill in Dreketi, Vanua Levu. Photo: Shratika Naidu

Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu yesterday reminded rice farmers gathered for a talanoa session that the Government was committed in its effort to develop Vanua Levu.

Mr Seruiratu, the former Commissioner Northern, encouraged the rice farmers from Macuata and Bua provinces to work in partnership with the Government.

He informed them that he was aware that 74 per cent of the rural dwellers’ livelihood in Vanua Levu depended on agriculture.

The Government through the Ministry of Agriculture was focused on developing commodities like rice, dalo, yaqona, cocoa, coconut, beef, sheep and goat as part of the Look North Policy, he said.

 

Focus and Plan for 2017

Mr Seruiratu said for agriculture the focus for this year was mechanisation of the sector and that involved a lot of activities.

“We are targeting again our export potentials because Fiji has good quality products and the demand is there,” he said.

“But it is a matter of consistently meeting the expectation of our market.

“For that we will very much focus on the production this year and our monitoring process.

“Likewise for our import substitution we are looking hard on this.

“As we are targeting the above activities and commodities we are looking at developing the whole value chain which is very important for us.

“Previously we were focusing too much on production and neglected the whole value chain things like transportation, packaging, cold storage system and most importantly the market and linking producers to the market.

“We are aware that there is a labour shortage in Fiji,” he said.

 

Significant plans for developing commodities

 

Ginger/ Dalo/ Yaqona

Mr Seruiratu said there was a significant increase of ginger export over the past few years.

“There are new products entering the ginger markets now,” he said.

“Lately we have added a list of product such as ginger syrup in Australia and now is an item that is selling like hot cakes, which is good for us.

“The other products are ginger juice and ginger puree.

“Previously very little of fresh ginger but more of crystallised ginger.

“But this new market segment has brought in lot of hope and of course the interest showed by our farmers is good for Fiji.”

 

Cocoa/ Coconut/ Rice

Mr Seruiratu said there was huge market now for cocoa.

“We did cocoa business in the 80s and then it was left but now the demand is here,” he said.

“Particularly we are looking at reviving some of the cocoa projects that could have been established years ago.

“That is why we are in Vanua Levu to look into this.”

Meanwhile, he said Vanua Levu was doing well in the coconut industry. We are looking at replanting programmes,” he said.

“Again I have asked Commissioner Northern to form a task force to do awareness.

“It will be a composite team headed by the Commissioner Northern’s office.

“The market is there.

“People need to be aware and take responsibility.”

 

Reason for Northern visit on the first week of this year

Mr Seruiratu informed the people at the talanoa session that he came to the North with his Permanent Secretary Jitendra Singh and deputy secretary Uraia Waibuta and other senior staff to plan another financial year.

“We have started to look at our budget process for the next financial year. Irrigation is something that we will seek special allocation for because of the changing weather patterns.

“If we need to produce consistent quality products then we might need to irrigate most of our areas and provide something for our livestock farmers as well.

“We have visited many agricultural sites, looking at successful projects, listening to some of the issues raised by the stakeholders. We are doing follow ups on the progress made and also looking at potential.”

 

Follow the right procedure

During the talanoa session there were a lot of complaints made by the farmers about some Government workers not doing their job.

“Such as workers not communicating with the farmers, some not delivering right information and some being mistreated,” he said.

Mr Seruiratu told the farmers to raise their issues including officers not doing their job and to follow the right channel.

“It is very important that you inform the Commissioner Northern and the respective heads of Government departments so that they are aware and proper investigation can be done,” he said.

Mr Waibuta requested the farmers to have patience because there were areas that they needed to review and relook into.

 

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

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