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Reducing the trade deficit through the importation of fruits and vegetables remains a key priority of the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture.
This was highlighted by the Ministry's Deputy Secretary for Agriculture Development, Jone Sovalawa at the launch of Fiji's Fruit Tree Orchards initiative at Volivoli Village in Sigatoka last week.
“Fiji has been relying on its traditional fruits such as banana, pineapple, papaya and mangoes over a number of years with imported fruits such as apples, oranges, pears and grapes having also taken a wide market share,” he said.
Fiji's agriculture statistics for 2018 says the country imports $21.4 million (just over US$1 million) worth of fresh fruits annually and $0.33 million (US$0.155 million) of processed fruits.
“Fiji has the potential to reduce 50% of this import bill by focusing its resources on growing or producing more specific, high potential fruit items locally,” said Sovalawa.
“Currently, Fiji relies largely on imported produce to meet the demands of its tourism sector and the agriculture sector will continue to play a dominant and leading role in the growth and development of Fiji’s economy through the provision of food security for the rural and maritime areas,” he added.
Highlighting the challenges in substituting imported fruits with local supply, Sovalawa said the Ministry of Agriculture continues to identify opportunities to link the tourism and the agriculture sectors, with the onus on the local agriculture sector to produce quality products in the correct quantity on a consistence basis.
“Under the Establishment of the Fruit Tree Orchards initiative, the Ministry will ensure the setting up of organised orchards of selected fruits in strategic locations to make fruits readily available to locals as well as to our ever-growing tourism industry and for our export markets.
The newly introduced fruit tree varieties will be available to farmers to boost existing production for import substitution and export promotion while also supporting the fruit industry.
In addition the Ministry of Agriculture will continue its research for high yielding varieties that have low production costs, are pest and disease tolerant and resilient to the effects of climate change..
SOURCE: FIJI GOVT/PACNEWS
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