Revitalising Fiji’s rice industry still a priority: Reddy

Rice farmers in Dreketi plant rice. Picture: FT FILE

THE revitalisation of the rice industry continues to be a priority of the Ministry of Agriculture in its ongoing efforts to improve efficient production through continued research for a self-sufficient and sustainable rice industry.

Minister for Agriculture Dr Mahendra Reddy made this comment to rice farmers of Nabouwalu Village in Bua during his Northern Division Tour.

He said strategies to ensure a revived and strengthened rice industry was in progress, some of which included the introduction of high yielding improved rice varieties in Fiji.

“We are trying our best to expand our rice production throughout the country, including the Western Division of Viti Levu which we have seen is garnering interest at the national level,” Mr Reddy said.

“Currently, the People’s Republic of China is assisting Fiji with nine (9) experts to work on the rice development project (phase II) in the Central and Northern Divisions to improve production efficiency and to continue research and development in the Fijian rice sector.”

Plans were also highlighted for the commercialization of the rice industry, which would require close collaboration between the Ministry, rice farmers and stakeholders.

“Rice farming can be labor intensive, hence the Ministry continues to mechanize many of the husbandry practices, including providing access to various types of rice machines which are available to farmers on subsidized rates and the formation of rice clusters, where possible, to achieve economies of scale which ensure machine optimisation.”

He also acknowledged villagers commitment for rice production and encouraged farmers to continue to develop rice farms in the Nabouwalu area. He also reiterated the need for farmers to reinvest their profits into the farms.

Meanwhile, the village of Nabouwalu, through technical support from the Ministry of Agriculture produced 8 acres of rice during their first season.

Nabouwalu Village chief Buli Raviravi Ratu Semi Ramatai acknowledged Government’s technical advice and support for assisting villagers venture into rice farming.

“We’ve never planted rice before, this is the first time for us to venture into rice farming, which has only been possible with the help and support from the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.

“We are grateful to the Ministry for supporting us and providing the advice in rice production. We had a lot of vacant land available with the villagers but what we needed was the right advice and under their guidance we are able to produce 8 acres of rice.

“This is just the beginning for the villagers here, we have big plans to take rice production into commercial levels in the near future because now we know how to produce rice for our income.”

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