Ministry helps islanders engage businesses

A woman from Namuka village in Lau displays her masi. Picture: MELA KATONIVUALIKU

IN its efforts to help those in the maritime and outer islands, the Ministry of Fisheries is finding it difficult to engage businesses that can collect and buy products from villagers.

Not one to offer lip service, the ministry is going out of its way to assist villagers in the maritime and outer islands find markets for their catch and also other products such as masi, kumi, mats and virgin oil.

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau, in his many tours of the Lau Group and other maritime islands, received many requests from men, women and youths for assistance in finding a market source for their handmade products and fish.

Upon his return from a tour of northern Lau last week, Mr Koroilavesau briefed his permanent secretary Naipote Katonitabua and other fisheries personnel on what he gathered from the tour. “Market access is quite challenging in the maritime and outer islands.

What we are doing now is we are working together with some private companies that have the guts to go and collect and buy from villagers in the maritime and outer islands,” Mr Katonitabua said.

“Our first intention was to use the government vessel Bai Ni Takali and the Agriculture Marketing Authority. But the feedback we have received so far is not very encouraging”.

Mr Katonitabua told this newspaper yesterday that it seemed the wishes of those in the maritime and outer islands had not been met.

“So we need to go outside and think outside the box and bring in entrepreneurs who are willing to go out using the government shipping schedule and get the resources from Lau. I think that’s in the pipeline and we hope to see that in the very near future.”

The ministry’s two-day planning workshop also came to an end yesterday and according to Mr Katonitabua, the ministry uses nearly 70 per cent of its budget allocation.

“This is something we would like to improve on come this financial year,” Mr Katonitabua said.

“We have also noted that we have many key performance indicators and through this Fijian service reforms, we need to reduce it to be more focused on what we do so that we can measure and also analyse the performance of our ministry.”

Mr Katonitabua said the ministry recognised that it had some leadership issues and divisional managers were to take ownership of their programs. “Also we have to have smart partnerships with other central agencies and also with development partners,” he said.

“I think in realising fisheries sector potential, we need to have smart partnership with non-government organisations and those in the international arena.”

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