June 3, 2021
Picture: Agro inputs off-loaded at Sawani border.
For the second time since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented, the Ministry of Agriculture once again provided the logistical support for the movement of much needed agro-input for farmers this week.
On Wednesday (2.6.21) the Ministry activated its ‘Operation Westcross’ using its logistical support team to transport 11-tonnes of fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides to a total value of $18k from South Pacific Fertilizer bulk to the Sawani border for its Naitasiri farmers.
Most of these farmers had been without these agro-inputs for their farms for some time, since the lockdown occurred.
The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Ritesh Dass said while the process looked simple, it was very challenging and demanded precision planning and a significant amount of resources.
“It started in the weekend after receiving requests from the Naitasiri farmers. It was late that same evening, the team quickly met online and mapped out a strategy. Our West Team under the guidance of the Head of Agriculture Operations and Services met with the Chief Executive Officer of South Pacific Fertilizers (SPF) to explore options. The Team was mindful of the restrictions in place and made sure that all protocols were followed,” the Permanent Secretary said.
He said a team of technical staff under the supervision of the Principal Agriculture Officer Central contacted the farmers in upper Naitasiri including Muaniweni and Viria.
The team collated the stock needed and the best route for delivery was mapped out with identified change of drivers and checkpoint ETA's, the PS said.
“Dubbed ‘Operation Westcross’, the plan was executed. Late Tuesday evening (1.6.21) a Ministry truck picked up supplies from SPF bulk and handed over the truck to its team in Rakiraki.
“Early 4am, the truck along with the SPF team left for the Central Division. At Loqani checkpoint the Central Team took over. The truck made its final stop at Sawani check point where the farmers were waiting with their cash to pick up their supplies. A team of MOA staff were deployed to assist offloading and loading on farmers trucks.
“I must thank all those involved who made Operation Westcross a success. After all, we are here to serve our farmers and demonstrate Agriculture’s modus operandi of ‘Growing Beyond,” Mr Dass said.
Muaniweni farmer, Priya Kumar, 22, said they had run out of fertilizers two weeks ago and were waiting for it to arrive.
“It feels good to finally receive this so the crops can grow well. Today, I bought two bags of Urea and one 5-litre of Glyphosate,” she said.
She said her purchase would last them a month before she would need more again.
Josaia Uluvula, 59, a Lomaivuna farmer, speaking in i-Taukei said he came to buy manure at the Sawani border because had also run out of it.
He said he was using some alternatives for the time being but made sure he was there today to pick the agro input he had ordered.
He said he was happy with the assistance by the Ministry, however, he noticed the prices had increased.
Mr Uluvula bought two bags of NPK Blend C and one 5-litre bottle of Glyphosate.
He said he would buy up his remaining two bags of fertilisers on Friday to allow other farmers to also have some to take back to their farms.
Savenaca Kenawai, 67, a farmer from Serea, Naitasiri said in i-Taukei he came to buy one tonne worth of agro input for his dalo farm which had more than 60,000 plants already in the ground.
He said they had run out of fertilisers for the last two months and the women of the community could only clean the farm using cane knives.
He thanked the Ministry for bringing the fertilisers closer to them, right to the border that makes it convenient for them.
The Ministry first facilitated requests for agro inputs worth over $5k from Tailevu North farmers two weeks ago, where transportation was also arranged to deliver the goods from Suva to the Logani, Tailevu border.