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There’s no drive for farmers to plant and export, says Heather

Thursday 26 May 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Economy, National

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There’s no drive for farmers to plant and export, says Heather
Some of the local produce that can be found at the market. Photo: CI NEWS/20062941

Agriculture – one of the biggest economic drivers of yesteryear – has failed the people of Cook Islands, says Opposition deputy leader William Heather.

Heather said there was no agricultural exports, the livestock people are eating were not being tested for disease and the fruit flies that arrived in the early 2000s are still present.

“There is no export, no more drive for farmers to plant and export,” he said.

Heather said only 30 per cent of the mangoes grown on a tree were good to eat while the remaining 70 per cent are infected by fruit flies.

“That is where I’m saying agriculture has failed our people.”

Heather said Mitiaro, Atiu, Ma’uke, Mangaia and Aitutaki should be used as Rarotonga’s “food bowl”.

“Look after these islands, start one with the fruits, the other with the veges, the other with livestock.”

Heather said if there was excess food after domestic consumption it should be shipped to New Zealand.

“If Samoa and Tonga and these other islands manage to take their taro, their coconuts to New Zealand then why can’t we.

“That’s what we should do, we should be going and managing these things, that is the job for the agriculture.

“It seems to me we’re just going day by day with whatever happens.”

Heather said the Cook Islands needed to at least try and eliminate the fruit fly.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been appropriated $1.45 million in the 2022/2023 Budget of which $1.09 million has been earmarked for personnel use and $314,509 for operating to deliver four outputs – crops research, biosecurity, advisory and corporate services.