July 24, 2020
Picture:From Left Minister for Agriculture Dr.mahendra Reddy,Head of Mataqali Naivorati Mr.Tomasi Nasuikau and Permanant Screatary for Agriculture Mr.Ritesh Dass.
The Contractual Farming initiative of the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) and the Voluntary Membership Scheme of the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) gained immense success with more farmers including women farmers showing interest in growing with the company.
A 55-year-old former Accountant, Mr. Praveen Singh, joined AMA as one of the twenty farmers that signed contract with the Naivorati farmer’s cluster in Lomaivuna last month.
Praveen, who is originally from Ba, says that he was always thinking of opting to farming and coming from a farming background, he purchased a farm in Tailevu and now supplies; dalo, cassava, ginger, duruka, rourou, pumpkin, watermelon and assorted vegetables to AMA.
“My interest in farming grew when I saw an article where the Chief Executive Officer of AMA, Mr. Alvin Sharma mentioned about contract farming, then I approached him personally to get more information,” said Praveen.
He said that farmers going into contractual farming is also a way to move into large-scale commercial farming.
“Previously, farmers had land, but they were unsure of what to plant and with AMA, farmers are now aware of the market demand and can grow targeted crops,” said Praveen.
He said market was one of the major problems for farmers especially when the produce is not sold and the middlemen tries to lower the prices at the last minute.
“After signing the contract with AMA, the farmers have confidence that the market is available and they can reap the benefit by planting the crops required under the contract,” said Praveen.
He added that land preparation was another problem for farmers because hiring a tractor would cost them more than $100 per hour but with the subsidized rate of $28 per hour offered by the Ministry of Agriculture will enable farmers to put the unutilised land into production.
“Contractual farming has created opportunities, with more people moving into agriculture, especially during this pandemic those without job have seen the potential in farming,” said Praveen.
FNPF’s Voluntary Membership Scheme
Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture, AMA and FNPF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in making farmers and cluster members, the members of the FNPF’s Voluntary Membership Scheme to provide social security for them.
The fee required to open a new Voluntary Membership account is $10 and the minimum monthly contribution payment is also $10.
Farmers can use their FNPF funds for short, medium and long-term social security needs such as medical, education, and funeral for themselves, children, spouse, parents and siblings.
They can also access funds for natural disaster assistance, housing assistance and old age income security through the Funds retirement products.
Meanwhile, Praveen says that having an account with FNPF is an added benefit for farmers whereby they will have money in their account which will grow with interest and they can use it for their future needs.
He said it’s a great initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture and AMA allowing farmers to get the same benefit as any other person working in the private or public sector.