Fiji is a country of great promise and potential. It has suffered from questions of racial harmony, ownership of land disputes and political instability. Most of these issues are being tackled in a positive fashion with visible results. Actions being taken should lead to more development and harmony. However, the lack of elections has greatly reduced development aid to the country, aid which is very badly needed.
Despite a great deal of regional sympathy for the predicament in which the country finds itself at present, it is clear that international support will only be given on a significant scale after the next election. The leaders of the country feel that some more time is required before they can proceed with this step but many donors do not agree.
It is only a matter of time in our view before the impasse is settled, a matter of less than three years according to many. The sooner the better. Meanwhile, some assistance is given by EU and others as part of regional programmes and there are some countries willing to help directly.
Sugar dominates the area of cultivable land in Fiji, followed by coconuts and rice. between them, sugar and coconuts account for 84% of the agricultural area. The land allocations to the main crops have not altered significantly in the last decade despite the need to reduce the sugar area due to decreasing rights of access to EU markets. The two alternatives worth exploring, assuming long established production is fairly efficient are: downstream processing into ethanol, citric acid or molasses; or horizontal diversification into higher value crops. The statistics indicate that this diversification process has been taking place, although it can obviously be greatly accelerated.
% of 142,000 ha of cultivated land
Pepper (Piper spp.)
Roots and Tubers, nes
Fruit Fresh Nes
Vegetables fresh nes
Sugar production stands at around 3.2 million tons per annum from 68,000 ha.
Fiji produces around 280 million coconuts every year, of which only 50 million are used for coconut oil production. FAO data estimates a far lower figure at 140 million but we believe the actual production to be over 280 million, The coconuts are mostly being consumd fresh with some fed to pigs. The imputed minimum value to coconut production is $15 million.
The official data quotes production as being:
|Sugar Cane||000 tonnes||3,192||2,513|
|Fish [excld. "Subsistence" fishing] Ginger||tonnes||24,661||9,841|
|Saw Log||000 cubic metre||82||91[p]|
|Matches||000 gross boxes||144||121|
|Non - Alcoholic Drinks||000 litres||168,081||213,383|
|Toilet Paper||000 rolls||26,771||29,080|
|Garments||F JD 000||46,600||47,262|
Production of fruits and vegetables for export, such as spices, ginger and asparagus has been increasing in recent years. However, from a total of $ 263 million value, not surprisingly, fiji depends on sugar exports:
Sugar Raw Centrifugal
Flour of Wheat
Preparations of Beef Meat
Coconut (copra) oil
Vegetables fresh nes
Not only does sugar account for 47.3% of the total value of agricultural exports, molasses account for another 4.2% and there are other sugar based products. Fiji remains heavily dependent on sugar. An interestingrelatively new arrival is the export of water. Fiji water is now a well known premium mineral water in global markets.
The first step is to undertake a rigorous value chain analysis on sugar and on coconuts. That may sound boring because people always think they know everything about the major crops but it is not. Both, sugar and coconuts, in their primary form, are relatively low value crops. Few farmers live on income from these crops alone. But they can both me transformed into valuable produce and products. Fiji already processes and exports molasses, which is a higher value diversification. Citric acid is one of the highest value products that can be made from sugar. Moreover, increasing agri processing is developing a good local market demand for it and there are attractive potential markets nearby that need to be explored.
A coconut is traditionally transformed into copra and then into oil and meal, which together with coir and charcoal is only worth 12 cents per nut in processed value. However, when processed into coconut milk, mattresses of rubberised coir and charcoal can be worth a great deal more. In fact each coconut can be theoretically processed to the value of $2 per nut.
The thing to watch out for is that there is limited scope for chain efficiencies but major scope for horizontal and vertical diversification. It is difficult to tell at this stage but the projects worth examining would include:
Integrated CoconutProcessing - milk+ mattresses + charcoal
coconut oil mill for biodisel (private sector interest already expressed)
Molasses (increasing production)
Mahongany and Teak
Other fruit and vegetables.
It is possible to target reducing sugar production by one-third, and yet increasing export values of agriculture products by $200 million, thus reducing the imbalance of payments, at the same time generating tens of thousands employment.
You have to think big because not much has changed over the last decade in terms of areas dedicated to different crops and yet so much needs to be done to build on the development of the economy. It should be a mix that increases land values and industry and trade.
It appears that Fiji is poised to proceed with diversification into higher value fruit and vegetables and integrated coconut processing. A cold chain is essential to allow the former and the second now looks likely to have funding. Without a cold chain it is simply impossible to supply produce in a condition suitable for restaurants, hotels or export markets.
Concentrating instead, as ITC and UNCTAD are doing, on supplying mobile phone networks to allow farmers tobe told by supermarkets and hotels of their requirements is ludicrous. These MIS people who focus on this sort of solution are misled middle class money wasters. Farmers cannot react in that sort of time frame and farmers do not have the freedom to sell to who they like.
Fiji is exporting fruits such as papaya in increasing quantities along with ginger and mango pulp. However, developments are made slower due to lack of investment capital available.
One development in the pipeline is an integrated coconut processing system to produce coconut milk, rubberised coir and activated carbon. The project is in the formulation phase and if it is not injured in the process, there should be a system being established in 2012, probably in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu. There are also interesting Government coconut pilots being established in Tauveni. A Mission from Fiji is to visit the island of Santo in Vanuatu to have a look at the coconut oil fuelled biofuel electricity generation system in Port Orly. Fiji has been considering just such a pilot for Tuveni.
The Copra Millers of Fiji Limited has taken things into its own hands and appointed Vinay Chand Associates as consultants to undertake a feasibility study on RBD and VCO. This can be either or and the two products. The CMFL is to be complemented on deciding to take own action. That is the best way to develop agribusiness. With elections scheduled in September, there could also be a queue of donors wanting to help.