September 26, 2020
Picture: Dr Andrew McGregor delivers his presentation on Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Fiji's Agriculture Sector
Farmers and farmers organisations present during the one-day Pacific Islands Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON) Fiji Farmers Forum held on Thursday (24.09.20) were assured of improved service delivery by the Ministry of Agriculture.
This assurance was given to them by the Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy during an informal talanoa session with participants of the one-day farmers forum held at South Sea Orchids in Nasau, Nadi.
Farmers organisation's representatives highlighted issues such as the need to secure an export market for locally produced honey, the need to recognise floriculture as a separate industry, interventions to prevent loss of produce freight, issues on land leases and long-term commercial investment being hindered by short land lease periods, increasing Government operational grants and farmer training to assist the growing number of new farmers.
Concerns were also raised on the possibility of securing passes for farmers that commuted long distances to their markets, improving awareness on land degradation, raising efficiency on soil health testing, mushroom development, construction of farm access roads, the need to ban the use of more chemicals in Fiji for agricultural purposes and for Government to ensure market regulation.
While responding to the issues, Minister Reddy said there were aspects in addressing the issues that required clearer policy direction for efficient service delivery.
"I know there are a number of other things that we are doing in agriculture that I have not been able to cover here today but I wish to assure you all that business as usual is not the order of the day here at our Ministry.
"We fully understand the expectations from all stakeholders and if there is anything that I wish to ask you all, then it will be to treat agriculture as a business and do not treat Agriculture Ministry as a bank, do not ask for handouts," he stressed.
Minister Reddy said the onus was on farmers to create surplus from their agricultural business ventures and to reinvest and expand themselves.