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Agriculture Boosted Through India Government Assistance

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) that fosters bilateral cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and its India counterpart is expected to bolster Fiji’s agriculture sector. Under the MoU, Fiji’s dairy
24 Jun 2021 13:24
Agriculture Boosted Through India Government Assistance
Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Mahendra Reddy (right) presents Acting Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, Mr Saifullah Khan with a gift before the virtual signing on June 22, 2021. Photo: Ministry of Agriculture.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) that fosters bilateral cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and its India counterpart is expected to bolster Fiji’s agriculture sector.

Under the MoU, Fiji’s dairy and rice industries, root crop diversification, and water resources management are expected to boost.

Agriculture Minister, Mahendra Reddy, said other areas of agriculture development – such as food processing, value addition, market access – could expect the same.

“These joint activities and programmes will be achieved through technical support, exchange of scientific materials and training,” he said during the virtual signing ceremony,” he said.

Agriculture permanent secretary Ritesh Dasss described the event as a historical move that finalised a commitment to contribute significantly to the development of Fiji’s agriculture sector.

Mr Reddy said Fiji – India relations was an on-going commitment which dated back to the 1800s, and had grown steadily with continued arrangements in strengthening development co-operation.

“In 2006, Fiji signed a development cooperation with India through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which covered areas such as agriculture, fisheries and industrial waste management,” he said.

 

First Memorandum Of Understanding, 2014
The Ministry of Agriculture signed its first memorandum of understanding with its India counterpart in 2014.

The signing marked the commencement of cooperation in the field of water resource management.

“Also in 2014, the ministry signed an agreement with India’s International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),” Mr Reddy said.

But COVID-19 brought with it its own challenges over the past two years.

And amplified the importance of agriculture and food security, Mr Reddy said.

“In Fiji, Fijians, because of the loss of employment, are returning to their villages and communities to farm their land,” he said.

“Such occurrences required the ministry to reorganise its priorities to react effectively to the pandemic.”

In response to COVID 19, Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture designed a Agriculture Growth and Expansion Plan, focusing on initiatives to support priorities of the Agriculture five year Strategic Development Plan (2019-2023).

 

Mr Reddy said the plan included:
● long term food and nutrition security through distribution of seeds and seedlings to rural and urban communities,

● support for commercial agriculture ventures through investment promotion,

● construction and upgrade of farm roads to create market access,

● establish nurseries and orchards to ensure a sustainable, and *nan extensive seed bank.

“At the same time, the plan was to address key objectives of improving rural livelihoods,” Mr Reddy said.

 

Production
Fiji’s total gross volume and value of agriculture production for 2020 increased by 5.6 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively, as compared to 2019, he said.

Fiji’s agriculture sector real GDP increased at an average growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum for the past 10 years (2010-2019), Mr Reddy said.

Fiji’s total agriculture import of fresh and chilled commodities decreased to $356m in 2020 as compared to $389m in 2019, he said.

“While there is a continued trade imbalance for agriculture, Fiji’s agriculture sector is making steady progress in addressing its food import bill,” Mr Reddy said.

The volume of fresh and chilled agriculture exports has increased at an average rate of 3.4 per cent per annum over the past five years, he said, “Consequently, the value of fresh and chilled agriculture exports increased by 12.3 per cent for the same period,” Mr Reddy said.

The total value of fresh and chilled crop and livestock exports increased from $67.9m in 2016 to $106m in 2020, he said.

“These are commendable results, given the catastrophic effects on production by TC Winston in 2016 and other following natural disasters experienced, and of course the current pandemic,” Mr Reddy said.

 

World Risk Report
The World Risk Report 2018 ranked Fiji at 16th out of 171 countries considered highly susceptible to natural disasters, he said.

“This MoU and its accompanying plan will help Fiji foster progress and bring our work in line with the goals set out in the Ministry of Agriculture

Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023,” Mr Reddy said.

Between 2016 and 2020, through Research and Scientific support, India provided the ministry with technical experts in:
● coconut specialist to help revitalise Fiji’scoconut industry,

● spice consultant to review spice cultivation practices, and

● a food technologist to assist with value addition.

 

Mr Reddy said when TC Winston hit in 2016, Fiji received assistance of five tonnes of seeds from India.

The seeds were specially transported on board Indian Naval Ship [INS] Sumitra to support and provide rehabilitationto victims, he said.

“In 2018, to support development of agriculture infrastructure, Indian Government donated tractors to support farmers in the Central Division,” Mr Reddy said.

“Earlier this year, after TC Yasa, India sent a consignment of nearly seven tons of seeds to Fiji as grant assistance for restoration of affected communities.”

 

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj



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