Madraitabua Breaks New Ground With Tilapia Export To New Zealand

“Mr Madraitabua is one of our farmers who was assisted under Government’s food security programme and he has been very consistent with his farming activities."
30 Mar 2021 07:16
Madraitabua Breaks New Ground With Tilapia Export To New Zealand
Joseva Madraitabua receives payment for tilapia sales from Fisheries Officer, Makelesi Danford at his farm in Lokuya, Tailevu. Photo: Ministry of Fisheries

Aquaculture farming, or any serious endeavour for that matter, is all about passion, commitment and hard work.

For 62 years old Joseva Madraitabua of Lokuya in Tailevu, this statement continues to hold true to form.

The retired primary school teacher is on cloud nine after learning that tilapia harvested from his farm have been exported to New Zealand, and
that this was Fiji’s first consignment through the joint facilitation of the Agricultural Marketing Authority and the Ministry of Fisheries.

AMA’s Fish Unit Supervisor, Deepika Goundar said the 100 kilograms of tilapia harvested from Mr Madraitabua’s farm ticked all the boxes needed for a successful export consignment.

“This is the first tilapia consignment that we have organised with the Ministry of Fisheries and we are indeed hopeful that more will follow, although this depends on consumer demand and the orders from abroad,” she said.

“The Quality control measures for tilapia is that the fish temperature should be between zero to 4.4 degrees. When it arrives at the warehouse, the fish should already be gilled and gutted. The size is also according to customer requirement but the preferred weight per fish is about 300g,” Ms Goundar said.

Promising future for tilapia farmers Technical Officer with the Ministry of Fisheries Prashant Neeraj said the first consignment holds much
promise for tilapia farmers around the country.

“Mr Madraitabua is one of our farmers who was assisted under Government’s food security programme and he has been very consistent with his farming activities. He also ensures to observe the processes needed to harvest healthy and quality fish,” he said.

“Sampling and monitoring of Mr Madraitabua’s fish farm was carried out on a monthly basis and this is where we determine the percent-
age of feed ration against the average body weight of fish. He has been following the preferred fish feeding schedules and this is why his harvest
was excellent in size and quality,” Mr Neeraj said.

The consignment of fish exported to New Zealand consisted of 358 fish with an average body weight of 279.33 grams per fish.

Food Security Programme

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau said Government’s food security programme which it introduced in 2016 is aimed at addressing Fiji’s
food security needs and assist with economic growth.

“Through the FSP, farmers around the country have been assisted with establishing their fish farms with the aim of operating on a subsistence or semi-commercial basis before eventually going fully commercial,” Mr Koroilavesau said.

“Since the introduction of the programme, many farmers have been able to sustain their own operations.

They are now operating independently of Government support. They are reaping the benefits of their hardwork. This is the ultimate goal,” he said.

An elated Mr Madraitabua says that the export of his fish is a much needed boost for him and has given him more encouragement to expand his fish farming business.

“My fish farm has actually grown from strength to strength since I started in 2019 when I was awarded with the FSP assistance.”

From the digging up of his pond to the supply of 3,000 tilapia frys, Mr Madraitabua ensured that he did everything by the book.

“I am grateful to the Ministry of Fisheries for their constant advice and visits and helping me find the ropes when I first started.”

He added that fish farming was not all plain sailing but when he was

given the news that his fish was going to be exported, it dawned on him that all his efforts have been worth the effort.

“The frequent visits to the farm to feed the fish, cleaning up of the pond
and so forth has all been worth it and I am super proud that my prized fish made it all the way to New Zealand,” he smiled.

The demand for commercial tilapia fish has increased, along with competitive prices and a niche market providing a stable income for many established farmers.

Support for Aquaculture

Minister Koroilavesau said that in a COVID-19 era, the Ministry is strengthening its partnership with
various institutions to help address the three areas of need from food se-
curity, economic growth to sustainable management of resources.

He said there is increasing priority on aquaculture because it can meet these needs almost immediately
with fish being harvested in about 6 months. Aquaculture farming can
also reduce pressure on Fiji’s other fisheries resources.

The Minister is continuing his visits to aquaculture farmers around the country to motivate them to keep their farms operational for them to reap the rewards. He is also distributing aquaculture kits to the farmers and to the Ministry’s extension officers to address gaps and help boost production.

The Ministry has so far helped establish around 400 farms. This year, through Government funding, the Ministry will be assisting close to 100
farmers around the country under the food security programme.

Works have already begun with the digging of ponds.

The Ministry is confident that the new farms will contribute towards achieving food and income security.

Mixed livestock and crop farming

On his 50 acres piece of land, Mr Madraitabua not only has a fish farm but he also looks after a good number of cows and pigs.

“I am a mixed livestock and crop farmer and since retiring from teaching in 2016, I have been engaged wholeheartedly in farming,” he said.

“I believe that if more landowners were engaged in farming, food security would never be an issue as we would all be growing our own food.

We must act fast and spread the word to our families and friends who have land but are not turning it into gold yet,” Mr Madraitabua said.

Exciting times lie ahead for Mr Madraitabua as he plans to increase the number of ponds and eventually make the transition into commercial farming.

“Anything is possible if we have the will and desire to do it and I would like to challenge other farmers in Fiji to be proactive and to elevate their farming ventures so that they not only feed their families but are able to earn more as well,” he smiled proudly.

They say old habits die hard, and the former teacher has invested his time and knowledge to teach his grandchildren the values and knowledge of fish farming.

“I have my 10 grand-children home every weekend and I make sure that I explain to them the cycles of tilapia when we are out together at the pond feeding the fish. I can tell that they fully appreciate the work that I do at the farm,” said Mr Madraitabua.

“Blessings are surely on the way for tilapia farmers around the country and we are looking forward to the opening of more overseas markets as well.”

The Ministry encourages those who wish to venture into tilapia farming to visit their nearest Fisheries Service Centres for advice and information on how to get started.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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