Pioneer ginger farmer calls for review of farming practices

ONE of Fiji’s pioneer ginger farmers, Koroi Siganivalu of Naivurevure, Waimaro, Naitasiri, says ginger farmers now are not achieving the weights they used to achieve back then.

Mr Siganivalu made the comment to this newspaper during the Ginger Symposium at Holiday Inn Suva on Tuesday.

“During our time the weight of a ginger plant we harvested was really high. In 1998, I received an award for heaviest single ginger plant harvested on my farm, which weighed 11.5 kg; that’s for one plant alone,” he said.

The pioneer ginger farmer pointed out that Fijian ginger farmers today were even struggling to get a single ginger plant weighing more than 1kg.

“Most of us early farmers achieved this. Most are now in their 60s and 70s, but ginger farmers now are not achieving this,” Mr Siganivalu said.

He said he started ginger farming way back in 1976 — more than four decades ago — and agriculture officers who advised them at that time were good in farming practices. They used to actually demonstrate farming practices to us at the farm which is why I’m very well versed with ginger farming.”

However, he said pricing was a concern because from the price then of 27 cents per kg, it has only gone up to 95 cents now.

“And it’s been more than 40 years and the ginger price is still below $1; which is the price currently offered by local processors,” he said.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture should bring in ginger farming experts from overseas, especially Hawaii.

“Because I was one of the pioneer farmers that went to study ginger farming in Hawaii. They can come and show us the correct planting practices, especially how we apply fertilisers.

“In Fiji we are only applying fertilisers once or twice, and that’s why we can’t achieve the weights we used to get.

“It’s why Fiji is achieving less in production in terms of weight.

“In Hawaii fertilisers were applied five times before harvest.”

Meanwhile, symposium co-ordinator and principal agricultural officer central Tepola Seniloli agreed with Mr Siganivalu’s sentiments when she told this newspaper there were people at the symposium, who pioneered ginger planting in Fiji way back in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

“Mr Siganivalu said for instance they were the ones who went to Hawaii and learned about their ginger farming practices and they brought it back to Fiji.

“So what we are going to do is go back and change the practices that we’re doing because at that time they were producing better quality ginger.”

She said farmers usually told them how they planted ginger in those days.

“The farmers used to tell us when they used this application, this amount of fertiliser, this spacing, they used to get good ginger, but over the years instead of moving forward we have sort of stagnated.”

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