Assistant Minister hands over rice seeds to Ministry after harvest; Don’t leave land idle, Hon Pillay urges farmers

April 12, 2021

Picture: Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Viam Pillay (2nd from left) stands in front of the 55 bags of rice newly harvested rice from his farm flanked by officers from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, the Hon. Viam Pillay handed 50 bags of rice seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture following harvesting at his farm in Ba during the Rice Field Day last week.

“The total harvest was 55 bags and out of that, 50 bags will go back to the Ministry of Agriculture to be given out to farmers, for seed distribution,” he said.

“This will help farmers grow rice.”

Hon. Pillay expressed his gratitude to line Minister, the Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy, Fiji Rice Limited Chairman, Mr Raj Sharma, and EU Deputy Head of Delegation for the Pacific, Dr Erja Askola for attending the special occasion.

He explained that while he used to encourage farmers to plant rice, it occurred to him that he should also be doing that. 

He said rice used to be planted in the area together with sugarcane but farmers stopped due to the high cost of labour to manually harvest it.

He also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for providing the rice seeds that enabled him to plant.

Further, Hon Pillay’s message to farmers was not to let their land become idle.

“Whenever I have time and I’m here at home, I make sure I plant,” he says.

Hon Pillay’s 15acre farm boasts an orchard containing various fruit trees including dragon fruit, guava, pineapple, and lime. 

He plans to form a rice cluster for neighboring areas in an effort to encourage farmers to plant and expand the industry to reduce reliance on imports.

Minister for Agriculture Reddy called Hon. Pillay a ‘model farmer, a model sugarcane farmer, and a model social worker’. 

“He has been doing charity work for a very long time. He has provided water to communities that have been struggling to get drinking water in the interior of Ba, Tavua, and Lautoka. 

“He is now a model farmer in rice production and it is an honor and pleasure for us to use his farm, his farm management skills to motivate and incentivize you all to get into rice farming,” Dr Reddy said. 

The Minister said rice was one of the easiest crops to grow and encouraged farmers to grow it instead of buying it.

He urged farmers to allocate at least one acre of land and villages to allocate some land, depending on the number of households to grow rice and the Ministry of Agriculture would provide support.