Potato potential

The Ministry of Agriculture is working with farmers to strengthen potato farming in Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Ministry of Agriculture is working with farmers to strengthen potato farming in Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE Ministry of Agriculture’s acting director extension Jone Sovalawa says potato is an important crop in terms of import reduction.

“And in order to expand the industry, the capacity of ministry officials need to be strengthened and developed with new technologies in the field of potato development,” he said.

Mr Sovalawa made the statement after the ministry, in an effort to enhance the potato industry in Fiji and build the capacity of its staff, earlier this week sent three of their officers to undergo training on potato development in Papua New Guinea.

The officers, two from the Crop Extension Division and one from the Crop Research Division, will undertake three months training on capacity-building and technical areas of potato production at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Papua New Guinea.

“Upon their return, these three officers will train other staff within the Ministry and farmers to assist in implementing correct husbandry practices in potatoes in order to maximise its production,” Mr Sovalawa said.

He said this training was part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Fijian Government and NARI in December 2013 on staff capacity building for both nations to foster sharing of knowledge in terms of agriculture development.

“To implement the MOU, the Ministry of Agriculture started to negotiate with NARI, PNG in 2014 when potato was brought back under the Potato Research and Development program and this is the first time the staff are being sent on training, particularly for the potato commodity,” he said.

Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary David Kolitagane said training was a very important component of capacity building within the ministry.

“We are sending our staff for training to increase their knowledge to provide better services to our farmers and we hope you come back and increase that outreach of potato planting and research for all Fijians,” Mr Kolitagane said.