Agricultural sustainability concerns

Organic farming is expected to boost agriculture and provide food and income security for all. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

WITH the inevitable dependency of our population’s livelihood on the agriculture sector, particularly food security, ensuring its sustainability forms a large part of concerns for political parties contesting the 2018 polls.
Five out of the six political parties that are looking forward to this year’s polls have come out with mixed views on the state of Fiji’s agriculture sector, revealing their plans and policies on how they intend to address the country’s agricultural needs.
The six registered political parties were asked the questions:
* What is your view on the status of Fiji’s agriculture sector?
* How will your party address it?
The FijiFirst party did not respond to the questions when this edition went to press yesterday. Questions were sent to the parties via electronic mail (email) on Wednesday.
Responding to the questions, Social Democratic Liberal Party leader, Sitiveni Rabuka said the agriculture sector was very important to the Fijian economy because more than 50 per cent of the country’s population or 450,000 people directly or indirectly depended on it for their livelihood.
“Despite the importance of the agricultural sector as the mainstay of the Fijian economy for food security and export, its performance continues to decline drastically,” Mr Rabuka claimed.
National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad claimed the sector had taken a nosedive under the FijiFirst government’s leadership, saying it was “entangled in cobwebs”.
Prof Prasad said Fiji was still importing produce such as cucumber, celery, capsicum and lettuce, which could be grown locally.
Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said Fiji’s wealth of natural resources made it largely an agricultural country, yet its importance to the social and economic well-being of our people had been ignored by the Bainimarama government over the years.
“Quite apart from being a source of livelihood for some 40 per cent of our people in the rural sector, a revival of agriculture is absolutely important to ensure food security for the nation,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Unity Fiji leader, Savenaca Narube said certain political decisions had affected the country’s agriculture sector, depriving it of growing.
“The resources that we have the most in Fiji are the land and the sea. It, therefore, makes common sense to build a sturdy platform for our future prosperity on exploiting the huge potential of these two natural resources” Mr Narube said.
Fiji Unity Freedom Party leader Jagath Karunaratne said agriculture was not just a sector that was limited to the farmers and for those making a living out of the crops.
Mr Karunaratne said it was the sector that could possibly make a difference in the livelihoods of everyone.