DAIRY farming will be given a major boost as stakeholders look to expand the growing industry to the Western Division.
According to a Ministry of Agriculture senior research officer, plans are in progress to move the industry to the sugar farming region.
Rajnesh Prasad of the Koronivia Research Station said sugar cane farmers could also earn more income from dairy farming.
"There are 16,000 registered sugarcane farmers in the west and if we were to give them one cow each and constantly help them with the care of their cow, like we do for our dairy farmers in the Central Division, then we would have 16,000 cattle producing milk," said Mr Prasad.
He said the reason the ministry wanted to encourage west farmers to begin dairy farming was because of the high demand for dairy products.
"We want to ensure that we can be self sufficient. But at the moment that is the not the case.
"Our requirement at the moment is 80million litres per annum and we import 60million litres while we only produce 20million litres locally. This is something the ministry is seriously looking into.
"And we want to encourage more farmers to take up dairy farming so that we can meet the demand for milk while at the same time decrease our import bills on milk."
Mr Prasad said the ministry had built milking sheds and provided milking buckets to the few dairy farmers in the country while conducting feasibility studies on dairy farming in the west.
But Mr Prasad said one of the important factors that would open up new opportunities in dairy farming for west farmers was accessibility to a processing plant.
"One of the reasons why the Central Division has more dairy farmers is because it has processing plants close by. They have processing plants where dairy farmers from Tailevu, Naitasiri, Nausori and Navua take their milk for processing.
"This is one of the issues that stakeholders including the Ministry are looking at when encouraging dairy farming in the west. Discussions are in place to open a processing plant here."