SUVA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Fijian Agriculture Ministry will provide assistance packages to all final year students entering commercial farming at an agriculture institute in Suva, capital of Fiji, to increase farming production.
Due to the downward spiral of the agricultural sector, the Navuso Agriculture School was established.
Agriculture Minister Mahendra Reddy said Wednesday the packages are to ensure that the agriculture sector meets growing demands locally and internationally.
The government would do its groundwork and provide students with planting material, crop products for up to 10 acres, the market, drainage and farm road, Reddy said.
He said they would mobilize machines, clear the land, get a tractor to plough the land at zero cost for the first round.
The minister said family farms and family labourers served Fijians well decades ago but are no longer relevant.
Fiji's agriculture sector remains important to the economy for income generation and food security.
Accounting for 7 percent of Fiji's Gross Domestic Product, the sector supports the livelihoods of 27 percent of Fiji's population, and is the main source of work for more than 83 percent of Fiji's rural population.
While sugar is the third largest export commodity, the industry's performance and production continues to decline. The Fijian government is therefore focused on increasing the non-sugar subsector's performance.
The government's "Fiji 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda" aims to drive transformation of the sector to commercial scale agriculture, and to raise non-sugar exports by 100 million Fijian dollars (about 46.2 million U.S. dollars) in 2020.
Major non-sugar agricultural exports include kava, papaya, pineapples, mangoes, and food crops like taro, cassava and yams. While most fruit and vegetables are sold fresh, there are a few establishments engaged in processing local fruits and vegetables, mainly for the domestic market, and in producing fruit juice concentrates.
A small but growing volume of high quality niche agricultural commodities, including certified organic coconut and ginger products, chocolate, and kava is also exported.
The Fiji government is collaborating with development partners to increase linkages between the agriculture and tourism sectors, and to maximize benefits to local farmers and the economy.