March 31, 2022

Misinformation spread by politicians in the past has led to large tracts of arable land left idle throughout the country.

As one of the main issues leading to the non-renewal of land leases by landowning units, the Ministry of Agriculture has raised its concerns about the impact that misleading information spread by politicians has had on the agriculture sector.

While addressing 12 recipients of the commercial agriculture development programme sheep and goat extension programme livestock fencing kits in Nausori recently, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy said misguided landowners had been on the receiving end as they had lost out on rental income.

“Past and former politicians have misguided landowners and because of that, large tracts of good and arable land that was previously under agriculture before were withdrawn from agriculture.

“They deprived landowners of rental income, causing injustice to members of their mataqali and communities by not guiding them in how to put their land to good use,” said Hon. Reddy.

He added that the Fijian Government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture which helmed the agriculture sector was now taking the bull by the horn and was urging all primary agriculture stakeholders (labourers, farming households, farmers, entrepreneurs and landowners) to play their part in taking agriculture to its rightful place.

Minister Reddy also reiterated that Fiji’s food security could only be guaranteed when farmers put to good use the resources available at their disposal.

“We cannot leave the security of food, our food, in the hands of an external party from outside Fiji. We need to ensure that our food security is in our control.

“Through the 90,000 farmers we have in this country, they are the ones who can guarantee our food security, not the Australians, New Zealanders or Americans, or others, our food security can only be guaranteed if our farmers, our agricultural entrepreneurs put to good use the resources at their disposal.

“Let’s put agriculture to its rightful place, we’ve got a strategic advantage in certain crops and livestock,” he said.

“Agriculture cannot be a secondary industry in Fiji, we’ve got a strategic advantage in certain crops and certain livestock. Why are we importing $48m worth of livestock meat, only lamb (sheep) meat, we can either, raise sheep or goat which is a close substitute, and reduce this substantially.

Hon. Reddy said that through utilizing the land for commercial agriculture purposes, all parties stood to gain, from the labourers who earned wages, together with farmers and households who would be able to generate an income for themselves with landowners in turn receiving rental income, the country stood to benefit by not losing the foreign currency collected through remittances, tourism, and sports etc.

Meanwhile, the 12 CADP Sheep and Goat Extension Programme recipients each will receive 20 pine posts, 10 coils of barbed wire, 1 coil No. 8 Wire and 2 kg staples (U-nails).