Revitalising agriculture ‘a must’

Wednesday November 12, 2014 Written by PW/Agriculture Release Published in Economy
Grounded: Minister of Agriculture Nandi Glassie gets his hands dirty.A report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture with the help of the international Food and Agriculture Organisation is said to be “far reaching”. 14111115 Grounded: Minister of Agriculture Nandi Glassie gets his hands dirty.A report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture with the help of the international Food and Agriculture Organisation is said to be “far reaching”. 14111115

A report aimed at revitalising the country’s agriculture production will be discussed at a series of meetings around Rarotonga over the next few weeks.

In a release issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, a report prepared with the help of the international Food and Agriculture Organisation is said to be far reaching.
It points out the negative impacts that have hit and continue to affect agriculture, but it also points out how the sector can lift its performance and incentives that will help that happen.
On the negative side it shows that over the past 20 years the consumption of imported food in the Cook Islands has doubled, while the amount and value of exports has plummeted.
At the same time the growth in the visitor industry has grown dramatically.
While that should have provided major opportunities for growers, better wages paid in the tourist industry took away workers potentially available for agriculture, and the demand for land for tourist and other accommodation took away or raised the price of land beyond the reach of farmers.
The release states that on the positive side the reports writers have brought together or talked to the government and private organisations whose input could provide a lift in agriculture output.
The report suggests low interest loans need to be made available to the sector to help it modernise and develop.
Growers – if they want to take advantage of the domestic and tourism markets requirement for fresh fruit and vegetables – need to be growing in the off season winter months and working in with the tourism sector to identify the quantity and quality of food they need to give visitors a Cook Islands  ‘cuisine experience’.
To improve profitability, overcome labour shortages and make better use of their limited land holdings, the growers may need to invest in new technologies.
It also suggests profitability can be increased by finding ways – like juicing – to use surplus and second grade fruit and vegetables during times of over supply.
Agriculture is already the biggest user of water in Rarotonga, and if there is to be increased agricultural activity, then there needs to be the ability to ensure an adequate water supply at an affordable price, says the report.
The report points out that by providing a plentiful supply of fresh and healthy locally grown fruit and vegetables, and encouraging Cook Islanders to eat them rather than unhealthy imported processed foods and drinks, will have beneficial health outcomes.
The report notes the government’s willingness to impose a tax on unhealthy sugar laden soft drinks.
In a move which could prove controversial with companies that export products to the Cook Islands, the report suggests the government should use all tools at its disposal – like taxes, tariffs and regulations – to incentivise the consumption of locally grown produce, which would also protect food security from international calamities.
Finding a way to train and get more people into agriculture is also a priority, which would provide more jobs and lift production.
The tourism industry has indicated a willingness to work more closely with the local growers to indicate their product needs and requirements.
The report called “Linking farmers to markets: Realizing opportunities for locally produced food on domestic and tourist markets in the Cook Islands”, was prepared by an FAO field team who have been in the country made up of - Tim Martyn (FAO), Tuifa’asisina Steve Rogers and Fine Tu’itupou-Arnold, after consultation with many locals involved in agriculture, statistics and the economy.
It is expected to act as a framework for people in the food production sector to use to create an agriculture sector plan aimed at 2020.
For this FAO is supporting the Ministry of Agriculture and the various industry stakeholders in coming together and voicing and strategizing an overall framework for this sector Plan.
Meetings to get stakeholders comment and input are being held all this week, culminating with a public meeting on Friday November 21 to present the outcome of the various meetings held between now and then.
Any comments, suggestions and proposals are welcome at the Ministry of Agriculture either during the round table meetings this week or in written form emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. You can also call Peter at the Development Coordination Division on 29 521.   

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