Rural farmers in the North can easily earn income

Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu (left) joins Minister for Agriculture Dr Mahendra Reddy and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to cut a celebration cake for the recent launching of the Fiji Coconut Millers Pte Limited’s edible coconut oil in Savusavu. Picture: SUPPLIED

Rural farmers in the North can easily earn an income to support their families through copra, with each coconut selling at a minimum price of 15cents.

Fiji Coconut Millers Pte Limited chairman, Raj Sharma said copra has been a traditional commodity produced in Savusavu and rural farmers in Cakaudrove could benefit from its revival.

Mr Sharma said that the company made more than $1million in loss following the aftermath of TC Winston, but in the last two years, Government had injected over $1million for the planting of coconuts in the Cakaudrove province.

Currently, the company collects copra, nuts, green coconuts and distributes coconut palms to rural farmers in Cakaudrove.

Mr Sharma said with the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Fijians in the North who previously depended on the tourism industry for their daily livelihood were now resorting to copra.

This, he said was because of the potential that the coconut industry had in boosting not only Fiji’s rural economy but the national economy as a whole.

“The minimum price that farmers receive is 15cents at the moment, when a coconut falls from the tree, that’s a minimum of 15cents on the ground,” he said.

To further boost and enhance production of rural farmers, Mr Sharma, who is also the chairman of Food Processing Limited said plans were in place to also further market Batiri oranges and set up a processing plant if possible.

“Produce such as cassava, sweet potatoes, dalo, dalo leaves and duruka are also some of the commodity markets that we are trying to look at and they are all in rural areas,”he added.

Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu earlier said there were a lot of potential and opportunities available in Vanua Levu that needed to be tapped into to improve the livelihoods of rural Fijians.

“We have always stated from the beginning that rural Fiji has a lot to contribute to our growth and particularly in terms of our GDP and that potential needs to be realised,” Mr Seruiratu said.

“Vanua Levu is a more agro-based economy because we have a lot of activities in agriculture, particularly sugar, rice and copra and livestock as well.

“We used to focus only on copra previously but now it’s the whole of the coconut industry.’

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