Pineapple farmers from Nawaicoba, Marasa and Randa areas in Nadi have decided to form their own group and establish a processing plant for pineapples and other seasonal fruit in Nadi.
Farmers spokesperson, Nirmal Singh says this is being done as many farmers are not able to sell their produce and end up selling it at a loss.
Singh says Marasa and Nawaicoba area alone accounts for nearly one third of the total pineapple production in the country and the market is flooded.
He says pineapples usually sell at $15 a dozen, however, since the market is oversupplied they are selling their produce at around $7 a dozen which doesn’t even cover the cost of harvesting let alone recovering their investment in farm preparation, weed control, fertilizers, labour and chemicals.
Singh says in view of this, farmers have decided to form a group and approach donor agencies to provide financial support in terms of acquisition of a processing plant, training and technical assistance.
He says the farmers will now venture into production of pineapple juice, dried pineapples, pineapple jam and canned sliced pineapples.
Singh says this is dependent on aid available from donor agencies which supports the agricultural sector.
The farmers spokesperson says they are now going to engage with other farmers throughout the country and get then on board.
One of the leading farmers, Mohammed Shaheem says they are prepared to engage in organic farming if they secure an export market. Shaheem is coordinating this project with other farmers from the area.
The farmers will only supply to the market on demand and directly service the hospitality industry so that they can get fair return on their investment.
They are also thinking of processing mango and cassava when in season.
Singh says currently Fiji imports mango pulp from abroad while thousands of tons of mangoes are rotting locally.
He also says they will do downstream processing of cassava and will explore an export market.
Singh says he will be seeking a joint meeting with the Permanent Secretaries for Sugar and Agriculture and seek their endorsement and support before seeking aid to establish the plant.
He says farmers will double their production if a processing plant is established.
Singh also says that farmers who do not have a sugar cane contract do not get subsidies from the government for farm preparations, fertilizer and chemicals.
He says he will urge the Permanent Secretary for Sugar to extend the same benefit to farmers regardless of what agricultural activities they engage in.
Singh says there should be a level playing field for all the farmers.
He says he is working hard to have the plant in place before the pineapple season next year. Singh is seeking government and international donor agencies support for the project.
We have sought comments from the Agriculture Minister, Doctor Mahendra Reddy on the call made by the farmers.
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