Farmers of Ovalau in Lomaiviti expressed their gratitude to the Minister for Agriculture Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy during his recent visit to farmers on the island.

Aisake Bukavesi of Lovoni Village said the visit enabled them to share their experiences as farmers.

“We are grateful for the visit by the Minister for Agriculture, we have been farming for years and this visit has encouraged us to increase our production as there are incentives for farmers to rise to another level,” Mr Bukavesi said.

“Through this tour, we as farmers know that we are not forgotten as a maritime region, it restores in us the belief that we have the potential to contribute to the country’s economy but we need directions to assist us to develop further,” he said.

“We can produce and exceed other productive areas in Fiji but we need guidance from the Ministry to set out development pathways and through this visit, we know there will be some positive outcomes.”

Minister Reddy reiterated the Government’s commitment to assist farmers address the issues which affected productivity. “There is a lot of potential on this island and there is an opportunity to progress from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, and the Ministry stands to assist all farmers,” Minister Reddy said.

Farmers raised issues such as inaccessibility to farms and construction of farm roads, market access and drainage while also querying about other available Ministry assistance.

“The Agro Marketing Authority of Fiji is available to assist with the buying of your production from your farm gate,” the Minister said. “Although there have been challenges faced between buyers and farmers, I want to reassure you, this is the dawn of a new era and things will work out differently, collaborate with our agricultural officers for assistance available within the Ministry to elevate your farming standards, we will assist you,” he added.

Farmers were also advised to form farming clusters as it would be mutually beneficial to individual farmers in receiving assistance as well as for the Ministry of Agriculture to serve farmers more comprehensively.