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Frozen potential

Ropate Valemei
Friday, December 07, 2012

Business body eyes extra million dollar investment

EVEN though Fiji generates $2.5million annually from exports of locally-produced fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables can be looked at as a potential income earner.

Fiji-India Business Council president Swani Maharaj said Fiji could stand to gain an extra $1million from the export of frozen vegetables to overseas markets.

"Fiji imports $10million worth of fresh and frozen carrots a year. We could save a lot of money if we look into it," Mr Maharaj said.

He said New Zealand and Australia were the potential markets for frozen vegetables.

"Frozen mixed vegetables, frozen bean and frozen carrot is in demand on the world market especially in Australia and New Zealand," he said

Mr Maharaj said this would generate income for the economy and farmers during the off-season vegetable planting.

"Farmers will have to pack vegetables like beans, bhindi (okra), and keep it frozen for export during the off-season," he said.

This, he said, would ensure Fiji did not run short on the supply and vegetables would not go to waste.

"This will help farmers go into multi-cropping and more profits will come to the agriculture sector."

While Fiji depends on New Zealand and Australia for some products, he suggested locals should utilise the land and produce its own crops.

"We can plant imported crops right here in Fiji. This will surely benefit the export industry in terms of less imports and more export."

The council welcomed government's initiative to invest in the agriculture sector and encourage more farmers to go commercial.

"More farmers in the rural areas need the overdue assistance to upgrade them to commercial farming."

He said this would enable farmers to utilise their resources and empower economic development.

"There is more to be done especially to iTaukei farmers in the village. Some iTaukei farmers are less fortunate than other ethnic farmers.

"The assistance will guarantee they are on par with other farmers."

While the idea seems to be a viable option to generate more income for the economy, Agriculture Department's extension services director, Uraia Waibuta said Fiji was not receiving good returns from vegetable exports.

"We get $2.5m from the fresh vegetables export annually. Our overseas markets in Australia and New Zealand want fresh vegetables," Mr Waibuta said.

He said Fiji exported frozen cassava with returns up to $25m annually.

"We are now concentrating on frozen cassava but will also look at the frozen vegetable export idea," he said.

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