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Fiji Readies Itself For Agriculture And Beef Shortages Due To Coronavirus

The Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on reviving the abandoned Yalavou Beef Scheme in the Navosa highlands which the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is expected to re-open it in the next few months.
09 Mar 2020 15:23
Fiji Readies Itself For Agriculture And Beef Shortages Due To Coronavirus
Minister for Agriculture Mahendra Reddy at the back of the rice planting machine showing the seeds at Barara between Nadi and Lautoka on February 5, 2020. Photo: Charles Chambers

The Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on reviving the abandoned Yalavou Beef Scheme in the Navosa highlands which the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is expected to re-open it in the next few months.

The move is being done to have Fiji ready to sustain its major food products as the international export of these commodities are being strangled by the export bans being put in place around the world as a direct effect of the global coronavirus outbreak.

This was revealed by the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, Waterways and Environment Mahendra Reddy.

The move is part of the Ministry’s rigorous plans to place the agriculture and livestock industries in a strategic position to be the biggest contributor to Fiji’s economy.

The other major agriculture project was the push for more rice planting with introducing new rice seedlings that would take up to four months before harvesting.

Mr Reddy said this was being done to have Fiji being close to self-sufficient in these and other products as coronavirus escalates around the world and would eventually affect the mport of rice and beef.

Yalavou Project

The Yalavou Project, on 700 acres of State land, was established in 1978 as a joint venture between the Australian and Fijian Governments.

“Yaqara is the largest holding of beef cattle in Fiji and we want Yalavou to be like that too,” Mr Reddy said.

“Yalavou was closed in early 2000 and was the biggest beef cattle scheme in Fiji’s history.

“The then Government and Agriculture Ministry abandoned with no regards to the street lighting, machinery, building which included store room, quarters and offices and large herd of cattle.

“There was close to between 200-300 animals at Yalavou when it was abandoned but now we are clearing the rain trees that have grown in what were good grazing paddocks.

“We are doing pasture management and planted close to five acres of Juncao grass (high protein grass introduced by the Chinese Government) which grows throughout the year.

“As of Wednesday they had rounded up 25 of these animals that had been abandoned.

“With farmers from surrounding areas, there was a total of over 1000 acres under the scheme.”

Mr Reddy said with 40 per cent of Fiji’s beef products being imported, the Yalavou scheme, which will compliement Yaqara will cater for Fiji’s beef imports with plans to even export beef products.

Rice Production

Mr Reddy said 85 per cent of  rice consumed locally was imported.

“When we talk about food security and now the coronavirus affecting food supply and blockage of trade in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, we need to seriously look at producing our own staple food.

“We are now promoting widespread rice production in the western division – not irrigated rice but rain-fed rice grown on dry land.

“We are looking at high yielding short term varieties, up to three months and not nine-month varieties.”

Rice farming project

On Thursday he launched and commissioned a new rice farming project, listed under Cambridge Farms at Barara, between Lautoka and Nadi.

“We have given this new project two tonnes of rice seeds which they are ready to plant.

“Simply put we are going into big time commercial rice farming and also the same for asparagus (duruka) and squash, all of which are exportable commodities.

He cited Grace Roads Group, the largest rice producing company in Fiji and based in Navua.

“People are attacking this company but to me this is our top rice farmer who is planting three to four crops a year,” he said.

“If I have 15 of these type of farmers I am done – I would be able to fully produce and sustain rice production in Fiji,” he said.

Other commodities that have been given a boost to increase production are cassava and dalo.

“This time last year there was a huge shortage of dalo and cassava but now there is none because of the increased production,” Mr Reddy said.

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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