Budget 2019

Fiji Budget 2019: Growing Agriculture Sector

Dean College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (CAFF), Professor Paul Iji explains what are some of the ways agriculture sector can be improved.
27 May 2019 16:12
Fiji Budget 2019: Growing Agriculture Sector
Fiji National University Dean College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Professor Paul Iji.

Government recognised the potential that exists in our agriculture sector.

A number of infrastructure development projects were undertaken to ensure farmers have good roads, good water connection and also chilling plants where they have the option of keeping their produce before it is picked up by buyers or the middle men.

Dean College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (CAFF), Professor Paul Iji explains what are some of the ways agriculture sector can be improved.

For agriculture, what should be the focus on, in the national budget?

Fiji should continue to strive to achieve food security as this is important for overall national security.  The country produces substantial quantities of fresh produce but processing and storage are lacking, so there is great fluctuation in supply of some food items between seasons.

This is an area that Fiji should strive to improve, and this can best be achieved by an investment drive, through offer of incentives to investors, local and foreign.  Investment in agriculture will achieve the added aims of commercial production and export.

How can Fiji grow its local agriculture export market?

Fiji has some unique product base, that is in demand across the world.  Production of these items is, however, by a large number of small-scale producers.  In my view, the volume of production needs to be increased either through support of local cooperative production or use of foreign investors.

These two processes will be the main drivers of a stronger export activity.  The appointment of a renowned export adviser would be helpful.  There is scope for introduction of new commodities that are in high demand in the world, e.g. cashews, almonds, buffalo meat and milk, etc.

What are the biggest challenges we face when exporting local agro products?

Low volume of production ranks highly, followed by lack of knowledge of the export business and competition from bigger producers.  Fiji still lacks the manpower to drive commercial production, processing and packaging to drive a strong export business.

What is the biggest challenge in getting people to study agriculture?

Modern agriculture is still poorly understood in Fiji.  Historically, agriculture was associated with low-paying hard labour.  There is little realisation that modern agriculture is now highly mechanised and we are in an era of smart farming, which take away the hard work, and precision agriculture, which delivers more productivity from less input.  These are the issues that we need to bring closer to the students and the community, for agriculture to be embraced by more people.  Graduates should also be aware that employment in the industry (farming) sector pays better than in the service sectors.

If there was one thing you could have in the national budget, what would it be?

It would be modernisation of the land tenure system for the benefits of Fiji.  This would be supported by a system of short leases (15-30 years) in which the land owners are part-owners of the farm business, and are thus mentored, to be able to own part of or all of the farm at the end of the lease.  Agriculture involves of a lot of commitment, which can only be achieved by practical training and mentoring.  It is the only way that real wealth can be rapidly created for the land owners, to increase the volume of production, increase the export sector and ensure national food security.

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 4.10.23 PM


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