27 March, 2018, 12:00 am
THE performance of the coconut industry has been on the decline since 1970s largely caused by tropical cyclones and neglect because of changing government policies among a few reasons.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture Viam Pillay said coupled with the impact of natural disasters, pests and diseases, increased coconut timber harvesting from senile palms, the shift to more lucrative shorter term crops like yaqona and dalo, high transportation costs, low yields and unfavourable market prices for coconut oil and copra contributes to the decline.
Mr Pillay said this is compounded by the lack of labour and high labour costs which has caused many farmers to lose interest and abandon copra farming.
“Due to its importance, the current Government has developed initiatives and implemented policies to promote and maximise its potentials and benefits,” he said.
“This includes the merging of coconut agency (Coconut Industry Development Authority (CIDA) and Ministry of Agriculture) to allow for a better co-ordinated effort that entails the overall coconut based crop diversification program.
“In 2010 a coconut industry taskforce was formed to produce a coconut industry reform framework with the purpose of advancing the development of the coconut industry.
“For targeted rehabilitation and replanting programs research facilities and laboratories were refurbished and renovated.”
Mr Pillay said new nurseries were also set up around Fiji especially after TC Winston to provide seedlings to local communities.
“The replanting program was also extended to the Western Division where the one million coconut tree planting program was launched at Yadua in Nadroga in 2013,” he said.
“Government in 2016 and 2017 had increased the minimum copra price from $780 to $1000 per ton, to guarantee coconut farmers good return and to also regenerate farmers’ interest back to coconut.”