Growers call for support

Wednesday March 25, 2020 Written by Published in Local
Small-scale farmer Danny Mataroa is calling on for government’s support. 20021914 Small-scale farmer Danny Mataroa is calling on for government’s support. 20021914

Growers are calling on government support as the coronavirus crisis forces them to put a halt on agricultural production.

 

Small scale farmer Danny Mataroa said he is unable to pay his only worker because there is no demand for crops due to a major downturn in tourism.

Mataroa’s farm supplies a small amount of fruits and vegetables to local hotels.

Government has announced a $61 million Covid-19 economic recovery package but it does not contain anything specific for the agriculture industry.

However, the response package does provide three months minimum wage subsidy to those affected by this crisis, including the growers.

But Mataroa said he might not be able to take advantage of this package because he does not have any paperwork to prove the expenses of his business.

“Small scale farmers like me run on day to day expenses. We don’t keep receipts or have records of our expenses. Most of the growers on the island don’t have such records except for big commercial growers,” Mataroa said.

“It will be impossible for us to get any support from the initiative the government has announced unless there are exceptions made for farmers like us who don’t have such records.”

Mataroa commended government for the economic response package but said lack of specific support for the agriculture industry was worrying for growers like him.

He said they were expecting some form of grant to help them continue production during this crisis.

In the economic response package, the government did announce businesses affected by this crisis are eligible to apply for grant assistance up to $15,000 subject to criteria set by Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.

Matavera MP Vaitoti Tupa also pointed out the food security issue and lack of support for the agriculture sector at the response package announcement on Wednesday last week.

Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said the Minister for Agriculture Rose Toki-Brown and her team were looking at scaling up agricultural production during this time.

Brown said some of the support they were looking at includes:

·        Free seedlings will be made available.

·        Identification of idle lands for cultivation.

·        The repurposing of those workers who have no work or are put off work and are getting paid minimum wage into the areas of agricultural production

·        Looking at variety of crops.

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