Self-sufficiency For Fruits And Vegetables
The Fijian Government’s goal to have self sufficiency in fruits and vegetables and minimise the importation of these food items is possible.
Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, Inia Seruiratu made the comments while opening the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) – Pacific Plant Biosecurity Capacity Building Workshop at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi yesterday.
“As the Ministry embarks on modernising agriculture, one of our key focuses is to continue to increase Fiji’s non-sugar export and to minimise our consumption of imported fruits and vegetables,” Mr Seruiratu.
“Setting such ambitious targets maybe unreasonable, but I believe that everything is possible if we put all our efforts together in finding better ways and solutions.
“I personally have faith in such symposium as the best way forward to achieving specific goals for Fiji’s Agriculture Sector.
The workshop will utilise Australian and New Zealand expertise to strengthen skills and capacity of professionals within Pacific Plant Biosecurity agencies and institutions in order to address critical plant pest and disease issues.
Mr Seruiratu said Fiji’s economy relied heavily on agriculture and not only does it offer both employment and opportunities for sustaining livelihoods but also played a vital role in foreign exchange earnings through export.
Fiji agriculture trade statistics for 2017 saw Fiji earn $208 million as export earnings of crop and livestock, an increase of seven per cent compared to 2016.
Mr Seruiratu said the focus was both an exciting opportunity and a challenge that would set many possibilities.
“In doing so, this enables us to achieve our vision of influencing market forces through a vibrant and sustainable agriculture activity that reduces poverty, reduces the risk of food insecurity and increases our contribution to Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP],” he saod.
He said Pacific Island countries were already being hit by climate change and natural disasters.
“This phenomena strengthens our emphasis on food security, and the need to export for foreign earnings. However, the introduction of exotic pests and diseases would only worsen our already fragile ecosystems and economies.
“Having robust and effective Biosecurity and Quarantine systems may be the most important measure in safeguarding our health, environment and agricultural sectors.”
“Restricted trade and limited production for our most valuable horticultural commodities due to pests and diseases, not only disturbs the growth of the economy but adversely impacts food security and the livelihoods of our communities.
“It is therefore important as we move forward to find synergies and linkages between these complementary programmes being introduced and maintain a high level of engagement to ensure they are as effective as possible.”
He expressed Fiji’s gratitude to the Australian Government for understanding the complexities of development and proactively engaging with Pacific Island Governments to ensure sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
Australian High Commissioner John Feakes said Australia stood firm in its commitment in the Foreign Policy White Paper and engage the Pacific with more intensity and ambition.
“Under the Pacific step up strategy, we are keen to test new ideas and adopt the most practical means to strengthen regional cooperation and integration,” Mr Feakes said.
“In some Pacific countries, economic growth is not keeping pace with population growth.”
Mr Feakes said this was constrained due remoteness of markets, limited land and resource bases and the dispersal of people.
“If a country is to achieve high and lasting growth, it must participate in international trade,” he said, adding this could have a positive impact on income per capita.
He said Australia was committed to increasing its aid for trade investments.
“Pacific business continue to face significant, ongoing challenges to increasing export revenue across supply chains and to main a reliable supply for existing export markets.”
He said with Australia having a world-leading expertise in biosecurity and food safety, they were able to offer the region this and a strong portfolio of aid investment that effectively partnered with the private sector.
By: CHARLES CHAMBERS
Edited by: Mohammed Zulfikar