SUVA, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Fiji's Minister for Agriculture Mahendra Reddy said on Thursday that the government was working to set up more fruit orchards around the island nation, so more fruits could be marketed.
He said that for the last five years, Fiji had imported around 16.3 million Fijian dollars (about 7.4 million U.S. dollars) worth of fruit while the value of exports was only 1.36 million Fijian dollars (about 0.6 million U.S. dollars).
This could be avoided if Fiji could plant more fruits locally to increase production, he said, adding that last year alone they were able to set up six orchards of guavas, eight orchards of avocados and one orchard of breadfruit which consists of a hundred trees each.
He said for the next three years, the target is to set up 40 orchards each year. To encourage Fijian farmers to get into the fruits farms business, they will provide farmers with vacant land, seedlings and a manual on how to look after the plants.
According to Investment Fiji, agriculture, being the mainstay of Fiji's economy, contributes around 28 percent to total employment in the formal sector and indirectly employing many more.
This sector, once a major stronghold of Fiji's economy, is the third largest now, contributing 451 million Fijian dollars (9 percent) (about 206 million U.S. dollars) annually to the nation's GDP.
Sugarcane which used to dominate the sector now only contributes 0.9 percent and has been surpassed by other crops, horticulture, livestock production and subsistence sector.
As a major economic activity in the rural areas, agriculture has the potential in other sectors such as tourism and agro-industries and plays an important role in the process of rural development.
Having a rich resource base and tropical climate, Fiji has an advantage in producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.