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Opening of the Western Division Agriculture Show.

November 8, 2017       Koroivolu Park, Nadi.

The Acting Minister for Agriculture, Honourable Laisenia Bale Tuitubou;

The Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Honourable Viam Pillay;

The Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Jitendra Singh;

Na Momo na Tui Nadi and the Chiefs of Nadi;

The Commissioner Western Division, Colonel Manasa Tagicakibau;

Head of Government Ministries;

Co-Sponsors, farmers and stakeholders, students and teachers;

Distinguished Guests;and

Ladies and gentlemen.

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaskar, Aslaam Alaikum, Ni Hao, Noa’ia e Mauri and Good Morning to you all.

I am deeply honoured and equally happy to join you to open the 2017 Western Division Agriculture Show. I had accepted an invitation to open the show in the Central Division earlier this year, but other pressing national obligations involving overseas travel, prohibited me from attending that show. 

I am excited to be amongst you this morning for this important occasion not only because I fully support Government’s current efforts to revitalise the agriculture sector, but also because I consider myself a passionate farmer who likes growing root crops and vegetables in my backyard!

From the outset, I wish to express my appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture for its efforts towards reviving and adding more life to Fiji’s agricultural sector. Not only are we investing more into agricultural research and development, but Fiji is also increasing its assistance to farmers and would-be farmers. 

Government is providing an unprecedented range of incentives from education through the technical colleges to tertiary institutions, to monetary incentives for those who wish to join the profession and make a living from agriculture. Government continues to provide technical and professional support and advice to existing farmers and it is now working on providing insurance cover for the sector. I will revisit the issue of insurance later this morning.

The annual agriculture show is but one programme that is aimed at generating greater interest in the sector. This is an important event and I hope that it continues every year. The success of the show held earlier this year in the Northern and Central divisions has validated the opportunity to convene this show in Nadi for the entire Western division.

The Western Division, as we are all aware, is home to the majority of hotel chains in Fiji. And there are strong linkages between the hotel industry and the agriculture sector. The increase in tourist arrivals is opening up market opportunities for locally grown agriculture produce. This is an opportunity that farmers in the West can take advantage of by using platforms like the agriculture show as the basis of your farming ventures and future partnerships with tourist service providers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Western division is also home to Fiji’s ‘Salad Bowl’ located at Sigatoka where much of the produce sold in markets in Suva right through to Lautoka are sourced. The Western Division is also the backbone of our agriculture domestic export producing commodities. And there are more opportunities for crop and livestock production in the division.

I believe that this agriculture show will have a lot to offer in terms of informing the public on how to fully utilize these prospects. The event provides an opportunity for hotels to explore the abundance of fresh and processed agriculture products. It is also an ideal time for local chefs to explore the contemporary Fijian cuisine and to choose more local, fresh, healthy and nutritious produce. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the theme for the 2017 Agriculture show is – ‘Climate Smart Agriculture for Fiji’. I am told that the climate smart agriculture concept will help ensure that our nation is able to transform and re-orient our agricultural system to effectively support development and food security in a rapidly changing climate. Climate smart agriculture has three main objectives:

1. Sustainably increasing agriculture productivity and income.

2. Building resilience to climate change.

3. Reducing green-house gas emissions where possible.

As we speak, the Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama who is now the President of COP23, the Attorney-General and Minister for Climate Change, Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and the Minister for Agriculture and Climate Change Champion Honourable Inia Seruiratu, are all in Germany where they are leading the negotiations to fully implement the Paris Agreement. I urge the nation to rally in support of their efforts and especially our calls to the world to unite and act responsibly to combat climate change.

Here at home, we are all familiar with the impacts of natural disasters on our agriculture sector. Tropical Cyclone Winston, for instance, caused damages in excess of $200 million to the agriculture sector alone. The sector is yet to fully recover in many parts of the country. The recent dry conditions that the Western Division has been experiencing and the consequential impact on crop and livestock production is testimony to the fact that we must practice “Climate Smart Agriculture.” 

Although Government always steps in to rehabilitate the agriculture sector in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the losses that farmers accrue are usually substantial, and mostly permanent. I am therefore pleased to note that Government is working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation in designing a crop insurance scheme for the agriculture sector. This will provide an opportunity for insured farmers to recover the value of their damaged crops, and improve their farm rehabilitation programme.

Agriculture will remain an important and significant player in our national development and in Government’s efforts to strengthen our economic growth. This will also help ensure that the national wealth is fairly distributed, and employment opportunities made available to a wide cross section of our communities. 

Whilst Government is committed in its efforts to develop the agriculture sector, all farmers and would-be farmers should agree to adopt the Climate Smart Agriculture approach. This will enhance the development of sustainable farming systems that provides reliable sources of food and income security for all. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the co-sponsors of the agriculture shows for their generosity and support. And I once again thank the Ministry of Agriculture for ensuring that this event is held in partnership with the private sector in recognition of the private sector’s role as the nation’s engine of growth. 

Government will continue to support the agriculture sector by providing an enabling environment for its continued development. I note with interest the participation of the schoolchildren in the agriculture show. It is important that we introduce the concept of agriculture to children from an early age. I acknowledge and thank the schools that are able to visit the show.

Ladies and gentlemen, many of us know that farming is a healthy and rewarding vocation. It can be challenging at times, but it requires commitment, dedication and a love for hard and honest effort in order to succeed. I have every confidence that the collective efforts to revive agriculture and to enable it to become a key sector in Fiji will auger well for our people and our nation. 

I wish to conclude by thanking the Agriculture Show Committee for their tireless efforts in putting together this event, which I am sure, will be enjoyed by all. I now have much pleasure in declaring the 2017 Western Agriculture Show opened and wish everyone every success now and well into the future.

May God continue to Bless our beloved nation, Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Xie Xie, Faiek’sia, and Thank you.