The Way For­ward For Agri­cul­ture

Fiji Sun - - Comment - RACHNA LAL Feed­back: rach­nal@fi­jisun.com.fj

The best way to move ahead is not to sit back and sulk but rather start plant­ing crops as soon as pos­si­ble. We are blessed to have so much fer­tile land around us and if we start off now, we can re­cover in no time. What is needed is com­mit­ment, hard­work and smart think­ing by the Gov­ern­ment, farm­ers and all stake­hold­ers.

This is the spirit the Girmitiyas brought to the coun­try and they have con­trib­uted strongly in build­ing Fiji to what it is to­day

JJ Varma

In­dian High Com­mis­sion’s first sec­re­tary

Mil­lions of dol­lars worth of dam­age has been sus­tained by our agri­cul­ture sec­tor as a re­sult of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston. Those who were spared from the havoc TC Win­ston caused, could at least se­cure their homes and even in fu­ture, cy­clone proof homes can be built.

Un­for­tu­nately, the same can­not be said for our agri­cul­ture sec­tor be­cause we can­not plant crops which are cy­clone proof – or so we aren’t aware of any­thing as such.

TC Win­ston’s im­pact has led to a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in yaqona price which have climbed to up to $110 per kilo­gram from $30 per kg. Know­ing very well the num­ber of peo­ple who drink kava, this price in­crease will surely make a hole in the pock­ets of many Fi­jians. It is al­ready be­ing felt with yaqona bags which used to be sold for $1 now be­ing sold for up to $5 per bag. And if the price has not in­creased, the quan­tity has surely dropped.

But the worst isn’t here yet. Pro­jec­tions are it will take three to six years for our yaqona in­dus­try to re­cover fol­low­ing the dev­as­ta­tion caused to the in­dus­try by TC Win­ston.

This is given that yaqona is a slow-grow­ing crop. And while the cur­rent sup­ply in the mar­ket is based on what was al­ready ready, farm­ers’ sup­ply for 2017, 2018, and 2019 was all taken away by TC Win­ston.

So we will be in for a shock as far as yaqona is con­cerned. Ex­pec­ta­tions are we might even have to im­port yaqona from Van­u­atu. Sim­i­lar dam­age has been sus­tained across al­most all ar­eas of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

Peo­ple are feel­ing the pinch in their pock­ets with in­creas­ing veg­etable prices in the mar­ket. Some have even com­pared the prices of veg­eta­bles with meat and in­fact meat comes out to be cheaper al­ter­na­tive. This is not the most healthy op­tion but con­sumers do not have a choice as they can­not af­ford to buy a veg­eta­bles for $5 to $10 to feed only three peo­ple.

Way for­ward

The best way to move ahead is not to sit back and sulk but rather start plant­ing crops as soon as pos­si­ble. We are blessed to have so much fer­tile land around us and if we start off now, we can re­cover in no time. What is needed is com­mit­ment, hard­work and smart work­ing-to­gether think­ing by the Gov­ern­ment, farm­ers and all stake­hold­ers.

It is a fact our ex­ports would nat­u­rally strug­gle due to the lack of sup­ply. But if we fo­cus one at a time start­ing with meet­ing lo­cal de­mands and needs, ex­ports would pick up in no time. Fo­cus can be on im­me­di­ately plant­ing short-term crops so th­ese can be har­vested in no time. On the side, plant­ing can also be done for long-term crops. What is now needed is proper plan­ning and col­lab­o­ra­tion by ev­ery­one.

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