Caption:Members of the International Conference on Rice Farming.Photo:SUPPLIED.
The Grace Road Food Company (GRFC) based in Navua plans to contribute to a rice self-sufficiency economy in Fiji by the year 2020.
This was part of a presentation by the GRFC to the Ministry of Agriculture officials and stakeholders at the International Conference on Rice held in Navua? on Thursday February 19 .
Opening the Conference, the Ministry?s acting permanent secretary Mr Uraia Waibuta thanked the Company for their invaluable foresight and contribution to the development of the rice industry in Fiji.
The Conference discussed the importance of food security with the need to increase rice production through seed improvement and value of high rice yield, improve technology and quality as well as identifying the land area needed in order to be self-sufficient.
Mr Waibuta said the Rice conference augured well with the Ministry?s strategic focus in the 2020 Agriculture Policy Agenda, which is to modernise the agriculture sector in Fiji.
?When we modernise agriculture, we will see how significant and positive the impact will be on production, productivity, the livelihood of the people, on food security and of course, its contribution to the economy or to GDP.?
Mr Waibuta added that the Ministry will also focus on rural transformation ? a new approach to strengthen small holder farmers, encourage cooperatives and small and micro enterprises, use of new technology and technology transfer and capacity building.
?Currently, the Ministry is embarking on improving our efficiencies and service delivery. We are collating and improving our statistical data for planning and sound policy decision-making. In the last couple of weeks, you must have heard of our campaign, encouraging everyone who has interest in agriculture to visit any of our agricultural stations for awareness and information. These are some of the strategies the Ministry is undertaking to set the platform for this modernization,? he said.
Mr Waibuta also thanked the GRFC team for the significant investment of the company in Fiji and acknowledged the presence of agricultural stakeholders at the Conference meeting.
?Your presence does not only show your support in the development of the agriculture sector in Fiji but also shows your interest to know how best we can make use of our available resources together with the latest technology,? he said.
The Grace Road Food Company has found the best rice varieties suited for local conditions and these include the Star, Totoka, Nuinui and Deepak with an average yield of six (6) to eight (8) tonnes per hectare.
?This is also what most rice farmers need for the improvement of their livelihoods. With this technology and new varieties, we will share and learn on how we can take this knowledge and replicate it at our various farms.
?We will learn and share the importance of food production in times of climate change and the necessity of continuing research for rice production for food security, to increase our production and decrease our import bill,? Mr Waibuta said.
Since Fiji already has five local varieties of rice in existence, Dr. Kyung-Ho Kang of the Rural Development Administration (RDA), National Institute of Crop Science (NICS) said Fiji has the potential to increase production if other varieties are introduced.
In 2014, the country produced around 6,282 tonnes of rice, importing a total of over 30,000 tonnes with a total value of around $40 million annually with farmers producing an average of three (3) tonnes per hectare.