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We can reduce rice import: Dr Reddy


Aug 04, 2022 05:50:29 PM

Minister for Agriculture Dr Mahendra Reddy says Fiji can reduce the import of rice if farmers start to produce it on a large scale.
While handing over a rice mill to farmers in Saru, Lautoka today, Reddy said Fiji imports close to $44 million of rice annually.
"We are promoting rice farming throughout Fiji."
"Whether they are dalo, sugarcane farmers, vegetable farmers, they can continue promoting and expanding the crop that they are engaged in."
"Whether it's root crop, dalo, sugarcane, vegetables."
"But what we are saying is that we also want these farmers to allocate a small piece of land for rice farming for several reasons first of all, every household is consuming rice."
"We're now importing close to $44 million of rice."
However, Reddy says if farmers start to engage a little more in rice farming then the Government will not have to suspend such a huge amount of money outside Fiji. 
"Now if all the dalo farmers or the vegetable farmers or the cane farmers start planting one acre or locating one acre for rice, we will be able to reduce the rice imports to pretty much zero."
"All sugarcane farmers or vegetable farmers or root crop farmers, then we will be reducing the importation of rice to zero."
"That's 24,000 acres we need for two crops. We will be able to reduce the importation totally."
He highlighted that the Government is impressed with the response received from Sigatoka valley farmers who have begun rice farming.  
"Farmers have started to plant rice for their own consumption. We're not asking them to grow rice commercially Of course; we are promoting commercial rice farming."
"The production of rice in Vanua Levu commercial rice farmers has gone up 10 times this year. That's a great achievement."
"Now for other areas where we have sugarcane farmers, dalo, vegetables, we're saying at least you grow for your own consumption."
"So that we can reduce these imports and save the money going outside Fiji. We have control over our food requirements."
"During COVID we're very worried. What if our major suppliers are Vietnam and Thailand, what if they put a ban on exporters of rice because if COVID extends then farmers will not be able to go to farm then why will we get the rice from? So we want to have control over our staple food like dalo, cassava, rice, flour."
"Because if you're growing rice for your commercial, then all those rights will be purchased by Fiji rice Limited."
He also added that a rice mill will be established in Nailaga Ba, so farmers will not have to send their Labasa for milling.
"But for farmers like you who are growing for your own consumption Where will you go in million rice?"
"That is why we now provided portable rice mill."
"You don't have to go long distances. At the other settlement, we give them another rice mill. We don't want people from this settlement to go to the other settlement. We don't want you to spend money on transportation. You mill your rice in your own settlement."
"So we will give each settlement growing rice a portable rice mill. We don't want to charge commercial rates of milling wherever the mill is based 70 cents. 40 cents for the house owner, 30 cents per tin for repair and maintenance."
"So we're very pleased that now you have shown interest in growing rice. The rice that we're promoting the variety is a short term, three to four months, 90 days 120 days."
"So in three to four months’ time, you will have your rice to be harvested."
By Romeka Romena   

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