SUVA, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Fiji stressed on Monday the importance of developing its own fruit industry in order to reduce the South Pacific Island state's fruit import bill.
"There is a need to develop Fiji's fruit industry to include more locally grown fruits in our diets," Fiji's Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu said.
"Guava until now has not been a commercially cultivated crop and the release of this variety has provided farmers with the opportunity to grow a new crop at commercial scale," the minister said at the launch of a new guava variety in Sigatoka, a town on the island of Viti Levu where the country's capital city of Suva is located.
While Fiji relies on traditional fruits such as bananas, pineapples, papayas and mangoes, it continues to import other fruits such as oranges, apples, pears and grapes, according to a statement from Fiji's Department of Information on Monday.
"Reducing fruits and vegetable imports is a priority of the Fijian government. However, replacing these imports with local supply faces a number of challenges and these include producing quality product in the right quantity consistently throughout the year," Seruiratu said.
"Research and development will continue to play an important role in government's plan for the long-term sustainability and growth of the agricultural sector in Fiji."
Seruiratu said that the search continues for higher yielding varieties, low cost of production, pest and disease tolerance and resilient to the effects of climate change.
The new guava variety "Green Pearl," which was distributed to farmers on Monday, is in great demand overseas and Seruiratu said that there was a real market for Fijian farmers.
A total of 2,500 seedlings of the variety has been planted as organized orchards and will start bearing fruits in October this year.