November 25, 2020
Picture :PS Agriculture Mr. Ritesh Dass (2nd from left) with the senior agriculture officials during the meeting.
Next year has been declared the Year of the Coconut for Fiji, revealed Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Mr Ritesh Dass.
Mr. Dass made the revelation to delegates attending the ‘56th Virtual International Coconut Community Session and Ministerial Meeting 2020’, while standing in for Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy in delivering Fiji’s country report.
“2021 has been identified as the Year of Coconut for Fiji to promote and revitalize Fiji’s Coconut Industry. The Fiji Government is committed to rehabilitating the Coconut Industry in promoting the use of coconut for nutrition, health and wealth,” he informed delegates.
He said one of the 16 initiatives the Ministry had implemented in response to COVID-19 and the likelihood of a natural disaster, focused on long term food security highlighted the distribution of coconut seedlings to all households in Fiji.
“This initiative will support on-going activities by the Ministry of Agriculture such as planting and replanting of 1000 ha of coconuts, development of lucrative farming systems such as intercropping and mixed farming systems, promotion of innovative land use and farming techniques, ensuring product and market development through quality products; downstream processing of coconut by-products, scientific research on breeding (coconut hybridisaton program), conservation and maintenance of 17 genetic resources, integrated pest and disease management strategies in coconuts and promotion of coconut processing equipment/machines,” he said.
Mr Dass said COVID-19 has had profound and devastating consequences in Fiji.
He said COVID-19 resulted in border lock downs within Fiji and loss of employment for its manufacturing and tourism workers.
“During this pandemic, the importance of Agriculture and the rural sector had become more evident than ever. It has become a central element for many people’s livelihood and certainly a priority for all of us.”
The Permanent Secretary said the current pandemic had put Fiji’s Food systems under strain, increasingly challenging its capacity to guarantee food security and nutrition and provide a good profitable source of livelihoods for the population. However, the Ministry, farmers, exporters and all other relevant stakeholders have worked hard to accelerate delivery of it’s initiatives, result of which is that production of agricultural commodities have been boosted and exports increased by 15% for the first half of 2020 compared to same period of 2019”.
He acknowledged the continuous support from the International Coconut Community and looked forward to their unceasing engagement in areas of policy formulation, capacity building, ICT and agricultural scientific research to ensure development and restoration of Fiji’s Coconut Industry.
The virtual meeting ends tomorrow (26.11.20).