THE agriculture and livestock sectors have been severely hit by the March 30 floods raking up a total damage bill of $17.4 million.
Agriculture permanent secretary Colonel Mason Smith said a rehabilitation program had been implemented to address food security and the export market with 40,000 seedlings being produced on a four-week basis for distribution to farms across the Western and Central divisions.
"The west bore the brunt of flood damage with Ba, Nadroga, Navosa and Ra recording damage of $16.2 million to the agriculture and livestock industries," Col. Smith said.
"We were caught midstream in our rehabilitation program for the January floods when this one hit and the damage is extensive," he said.
Col. Smith also said the focus was on ensuring that farmers got back into planting as soon as possible and government was making this possible by clearing debris and improving drainage on vegetable farms in flood-hit areas.
He said the Agriculture Department was also working with overseas aid agencies like the Taiwan Technical Mission and private sector partners ù Nature's Way Co-operative Limited and the Rama Krishna Mission ù to boost the production of seedlings.
"We are pulling out all stops to bring the industry back to where it was pre-flood," Col. Smith said. "Basically, with the assistance of our partners, we will be churning out 30,000 essential crop seedlings to boost food security and 10,000 papaya seedlings to maintain our export markets every four weeks," he said.
"The papaya export industry has been very badly hit in the Nadroga-Navosa region where 80 per cent of our production lies," said Col. Smith.
Government has put aside a total rehabilitation package of $654,000 for the clearing of debris from farms, de-silting of drains, distribution of seedlings, river dredging and infrastructure development.
The agriculture and livestock sectors recorded a damage bill of $8 million from the January floods.