$300m agri trade deficit

Ministry of Agriculture Economic Planning officer in charge, Suruj Prasad chats with Dr Andrew Tukana, who has been appointed permanent secretary Agriculture and Waterways, Dr. Andrew Tukana after the Agriculture Discussion Forum at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Friday, Sep 22, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Fiji consistently runs on an agriculture trade deficit in excess of $300 million.

Agriculture permanent secretary Andrew Tukana told an agriculture discussion forum yesterday that population growth, the accelerating pace of climate and the evolving dietary preferences of the people presented further challenges.

“Without accelerated growth in the agricultural sector and the agri-food industry, Fiji will be unable to achieve its sustainable development goals (SDGs),” Mr Tukana said.

“Especially the goals of reducing poverty, eliminating hunger and raising incomes.”

Mr Tukana said there was a need to increase agricultural productivity to enhance food security, reduce poverty, create jobs and foster economic growth.

“Investments in agricultural value chains would be needed to counter current low levels of productivity.

“Most of this would come from the private sector as this is where farmers, suppliers, marketers and processors meet and operate.

“Finance would be needed for large investments particularly around mechanisation, climate smart technologies, processing facilities and agri-food logistics.”

Mr Tukana said smaller investments would help farmers and agriculture-based micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to increase their impact on the environment and address climate risks.

“At present, most farmers depend on their own and family financial resources.

“They have limited access to credit. The current financial sector in Fiji is not well set up to support investments for sustainable agriculture.

“Banks, microfinance institutions and institutional investors have traditionally provided very limited resources for farming.

“Their agriculture loans and investment portfolios are low compared to the agriculture sector’s share of the GDP.”

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