Low exports result of Winston, says Seruiratu

AGRICULTURE Minister Inia Seruiratu said the drop in root crop and vegetable export figures post 2016 was a direct result of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

At an exporters’ forum held in Nadi earlier this month, it was revealed that root crop and vegetable exports to New Zealand in 2016 had declined with taro down by 48 per cent, pumpkins, squash and gourds down by 30 per cent, ginger by 31 per cent and other vegetables by 19 per cent.

For Australia, ginger exports from Fiji for 2016 went down by 79 per cent, cassava by 60 per cent and taro by 10 per cent.

In total, taro exports had decreased by 419 tonnes, cassava by 923 tonnes, papaya by 277 tonnes and eggplant by 166 tonnes in 2016.

Mr Seruiratu said TC Winston had set the industry back and work was being done to increase export levels as quickly as possible.

“In the damage and loss report for Winston, agriculture was one of the worst affected sectors with more than $US300m in loss and damage cost,” he said.

“That was why the significant reduction in our export figures for 2016.

“Recovery will be gradual too because agriculture commodities have their own seasonal and maturity cycles. For example, while vegetables will take a shorter recovery period (three to six months), crops will be in the medium term (12 to 18 months) and fruiting trees like coconut, cocoa etcetera and kava take longer (18 to 36 months).

“Therefore some of the longer term ones will pick up if no disaster happens again in 2018-2019 because of their recovery cycle.

“Do remember that after cyclones and flooding, agriculture starts all over again because crops and animals die and you have to find planting materials and breeding stocks again.”